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Archive for the ‘God’ Category

Day 125: Paul Kalanithi

In Dreams, English Major, Friendship, God, Happiness, Holstee Manifesto, Humanity, life, literature, loss, Love, Meaning, People, Relationships, Teaching, Writing on September 20, 2016 at 11:51 pm

The physician’s duty is not to stave off death or return patients to their old lives, but to take into our arms a patient and family whose lives have disintegrated and work until they can stand back up and face, and make sense of, their own existence.
Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

In reading Paul Kalanithi’s story there are two quotes that stood out to me. One is listed above. While Paul is recounting his perceived role as a neurosurgeon, I think the poignant thing about that quote, is that you can change the words, and, in doing so, you will see something very beautiful:

The individual’s duty is not to stave off pain or return others to the position before they felt pain, but to take others into our arms, those whose lives have been disinegrated, and work until they stand back up and face, and make sense, of their own existence.

While Paul was most certainly a beautiful doctor in his lifetime, what I found most touching about his book was his ability to see (through the lens of his profession) the meaning behind living. The part of life that drives and perpetuates us, if we’re lucky. The precious ability we have to connect with others and enrich their lives through the experiences we make with them.

I have degrees in English literature. Paul did too. I have spent years disconnected from books, from authors that once touched me so deeply I felt a definitive passion to share their words with others and, hopefully, contribute to the world by helping their ideas, failures and successes to live on. My life got in the way though, and I lost that passion, I quit reading, I quit writing and I chalked up the time spent in academia as a waste. What I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d learn from reading this book, a book about a neurosurgeon’s life, is that what I’d studied, and how I felt about it, and how I can still feel about it, is meaningful. You can bring that passion, that meaning, to other aspects of your life, just as Paul had done. He was a neurosurgeon, but he was also a lover of Dickenson poetry and Emerson’s Leaves of Grass and Eliot’s The Wasteland. He found a way to beautifully intertwine his passion for works and authors such as the above with his equal, but different, passion for medicine and the brain. In fact, I believe, the two were codependent in his life. He was such a great physician because he had read the words of the grieving, of the loving, those who struggled to understand their own mind, such as Hemingway, and thus with these literary experiences he was able to further understand the element of humanity that must be present for a great physician to exist. He understood, like he states above, that he wasn’t God, his role wasn’t to stave off death, but to show those patients he encountered, how to live, how to love, how to grieve, how to be supported, how to find meaning – all things he learned, and, eventually, put down into a book of his own. 

This idea leads to my second favorite quote of the book, when he and his wife Lucy discuss the idea of having a child after his cancer diagnosis:

Will having a newborn distract from the time we have together?” she asked. “Don’t you think saying goodbye to your child will make your death more painful?”

“Wouldn’t it be great if it did?” I said. Lucy and I both felt that life wasn’t about avoiding suffering.

Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

Life isn’t about avoiding suffering, it’s about fully living which includes suffering. When we read literature, some of the greatest works, or, on a personal note, some of the works that have touched me most, it’s been the books, the poems, the historical recounts of people that suffered, that experienced something that hurt them and then took the time to write about it. Those are the ones that make you see life differently, those are the ones that remind you what living is really about. This is a subtle reminder that hardship is beautiful and to avoid it would equate to a flat life. A life absent of deep seated meaning. 

Paul’s book is one that will leave you in tears, but in a good way. What struck me most about this book was, oddly enough, the cover of it (I am oftentimes drawn to book covers and their hidden messages). 

Paul was a leading neurosurgeon at Stanford University. He was up and coming and he was a “great” doctor. I thought of my own grandfather who passed away just last year. I remember visiting him in his hospital room before he had lost the ability to communicate. He was a surgeon, not a neurosurgeon, but he lived his life in the same professional circle as Paul. I remember distinctly looking at the white board in his room, the one where his name and conditions were listed alongside his current medications and their dosing, it read: “Dr.” with my grandfather’s first and last name following. Each time a nurse would enter the room, he’d emphatically remind him or her that he was indeed a doctor, a surgeon, and that they should refer to him that way. He’d go on to let them know the years he’d spent in the operating room as if it somehow mattered while he lay in bed dying. Perhaps it did, perhaps it brought him meaning, but what this story is meant to point out is what’s written on the front of Paul’s book, a memoir of his life, is just his name – no lofty Dr. title preceding it. Just Paul Kalanithi, that’s it. Surely, someone who spends years of their life training to be a physician, a neurosurgeon, didn’t leave that title off by mistake or as an oversight (my own grandfather taught me that). Perhaps though, Dr. is omitted because Paul saw himself as more than just that. In reading his book, I think it’s quite apparent he did. 

When there is no place for the scalpel, words are the surgeon’s only tool.

Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

A whit.

Day 93: I know the pain of a heartbreak…

In Couples, Dating, God, Happiness, life, Love, Teaching on August 4, 2013 at 11:27 pm

I couldn’t sleep the other night so I decided to do a random YouTube search. With all of the recent hype concerning little Prince George, I decided to look up Princess Diana interview footage; I wanted to see what she was like.

As I watched her talk, she was surprisingly candid and honest. I remember the hype around her death, although I was still young at the time, and the overwhelming commentary concerning her beautiful, giving heart. This became apparent to me as I listened to her speak. She made it clear that her issues were a means to empathy. She could feel what the bulemic girl in the hospital was feeling because she actually felt it too. She could understand the depressed woman because she felt it too.

All great, compassionate people love others in a way that is personal and close. They love that way because they’ve felt the pain of heartbreak once too.

Heartbreak isn’t easy,

It isn’t clear

And you don’t need Jesus till you’re here.

As I experience heartbreak in my life, I come to know two things better.

Life if full of pain.

And we can use that pain to do good, or we can let it eat away at us.

a whit.

Day 71: I want to go back to Utah.

In Children, Family, God, Happiness, Humanity, Kids, life, Love, Mother, Parenting on September 20, 2012 at 6:45 am

That’s a phrase I never thought I’d hear myself say, but it’s true.

Oftentimes, when I tell people I lived in Utah for four years (a native Californian returned home) they tilt their head in disbelief. Then I go on to remind them (and myself) what a beautiful place Utah is. For me though, it holds so many precious memories, the biggest one being the fall–right around this very time of year. I was perusing some Utah friend’s blogs tonight, and I couldn’t help but notice all of the beautiful canyon shots, the vibrant leaves, and the visible wind gusts. This is exactly how I remember it that September 2005 when my precious boy was almost due.

I’ve spoken before about the wonderful feeling I get when Autumn arrives–it reminds me of the gift that is my little e and what a blessing God delivered to me almost seven years ago.

I can’t believe how fast the time passes, I can’t believe e is going to be seven in just a of couple days. He is my miracle, my entire life bundled up in one very witty, articulate little toe head. Today we were sitting outside Chipotle eating and he asked me, “what happens to those people that steal wishes out of fountains?” I didn’t know how to respond, so I just told him about plaza regulations and the money belonging to conglomerates that own the plaza facilities. He liked that answer. Then he responded with, “well, I did that once. I’m not going to do it again because that was someone’s wish, what if they needed it granted.” I love that he is so inquisitive and thoughtful. I’m so proud of him even when he cries for not wanting to do his spelling sentences or mad math minute.

This post was supposed to be about wanting to go back to Park City, my favorite winter space in the whole world (which I still long for), but it’s turned into something else I suppose. I wish I could go back, turn back time, live the past seven years over again, because he’s growing too fast.

I love you little e.

Three hugs. Three kisses. Happy birthday angel boy.

A whit-ing mom.

Unspoken Friendship: Day 64

In Blogging, Friends, Friendship, God, Thoughts on August 9, 2012 at 11:38 pm

Today I am thinking a lot about friendship.

This morning my friend called me, I think I’ve mentioned her on this blog before, her husband is dying of cancer.

As I got off the phone, my mind thought of this post.  I can remember it as if it was just yesterday, it’s hard to believe it has been over two years now since we met.

It was the third day of school (for little e), I was distant and very careful. I had just been through a terrible divorce, I was coming out the other end, but I was scared. I was different, and I was closed off. I was just finding my way through single mothering, and I was surrounded by beautiful, whole families. Intimidated.  So, I dropped off my e and walked out of the school toward my car (quickly and looking down to avoid conversations), she stopped me, she was just so beautiful, so put together, and I remember thinking she must have the perfect life.  In her bubbly way, that I now know is so her, she told me we were having a play date. We were going to the park, she hadn’t even introduced herself yet. She knew my e though, she said I’ve decided e is such a wonderful boy and he is the perfect friend for my son. I thanked her and said we’d have to get together, just so I could hurry on my way. She didn’t give up though, she found me in the class directory the next week and I got the call. After much hesitation on my part, I agreed to meet her at the park. I wondered why she’d want to be my friend–she was happily married, living in a great house in a great location, established, everything.

When we went to the park, it was there that she told me.  She told me her husband was sick, and with fear in her eyes she said, “It’s bad.” That’s all she had to say, and I knew.

Time passed.

Her predication proved true, our sons have grown to be great friends–the kind of friendship that will last a lifetime. Something else happened too, she became my friend. My first real friend after my divorce.

She’s helped me over these past couple years in ways I can never repay her for.

She’s let me help her and, it has meant the world to me. It has helped to rebuild me.

So when she called me today and told me the “it’s bad” is coming to an even worse spot. and end–for now…

I remembered.

She wondered how life would be OK. How would her son be OK. How would he live without a Dad.

I told her, I am always…

She stopped me, “I know. You don’t even have to say it.” Then I realized this, those are the beautiful friendships, the unspoken ones.

Like a friend has said on her blog,

Losing someone changes everything. But if you have faith, God will create a miracle out of your life that would have otherwise been ordinary.

My friend was never ordinary, ever, so now, in light of this, she’ll be extraordinary.

Perhaps fate brought us together. Perhaps she knew I could be a friend she needed throughout this trial. But I like to think that she has served a much greater purpose in my life than I could ever serve in hers. She means so much to me, thank you for saying hi and letting me be your friend. I’ll always…

dedicated to my special friend whom I love very much. ~ a whit.

Day 58: thankful.

In Family, Friends, God, Happiness, Health, Humanity, Laughter, life, Love, Mother, Parenting, Thoughts on July 20, 2012 at 4:46 am

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the following:

patience. and

loving what you have/what you are given.

It’s so easy for me, or you, or anyone, really, to get caught up in wanting things beyond what one has or is given. I have, and sometimes I throw myself a pity party about it, but the reality is that there is always someone who has it worse or is embedded within circumstances that are less fixable.

One of my best friend’s husband is dying of cancer. He only has a year to live, at best.

I think about her situation quite often, and it makes everything in my life seem so manageable despite the hardship that I face within my own circumstances. I am thankful this week that I have those that I care about close to me and healthy. I am thankful that there was and will be the laughter of little kids in my house–I’ve been missing that.

I’m so thankful–for the little things.

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Day 46: Atticus Hansen Earns His Wings

In Esteem, Fiction, God, Happiness, Holstee Manifesto, Humanity, literature, Men, Teaching on May 28, 2012 at 2:01 am

I’ve always been a very intuitive person, especially when it comes to things that are near and dear to my heart.

I’d decided about a week ago that I am going to run Eppie’s Great Race in honor of sweet little Atticus Hansen whom I have mentioned on my blog a few times.  Here and here.

Well, today I set out on my daily run.  It was 6, plenty late enough for the massive heat wave to have died down, I was running within my range of miles, and I was making about average pace (for me).  But I kept looking down at my Atticus bracelet, I kept telling him to be strong, and I kept telling myself to run harder and faster than I had previously–for him.

I couldn’t do it, I got to about mile 2.5 and my body just was aching in pain (it normally isn’t like this).  I began to walk, and I thought about Atticus the entire 1 mile of it.

I got home thinking my lag was from a lack of calories, so I immediately loaded up on some tuna and broccoli and then I went straight to the computer.  I thought, he’s gone–and he was.  His sweet little soul returned to Heavenly Father today and as I stared at the picture of him that was posted, in his little baseball digs, I thought of little e and my immense love for him.  I can’t imagine the grief the Hansen family must be feeling this day, but I am thankful for the knowledge that Atti will now be serving a higher purpose and watching down on all of us in love.

I am also thankful to know that he will always be a strength to me.  It’s amazing how one little boy and a blog could touch my life so deeply.  Thank you Atticus.  Little e put it nicely this morning as we we’re leaving for the pool.  I asked him if he had his Atticus bracelet on, with wide eyes he looked up and said very matter-of-factly, “Yep, got Atticus right here!  He’s going to the pool with us today!”  Who knows, maybe he did.

If you’d like to help support childhood brain tumor research please follow this LINK.

Being A Mom: Day 30

In God, Happiness, Humanity, life, Love, Mother, Parenting, Stories, Thoughts, wit, Women, Work on September 19, 2011 at 4:18 am

As I was walking through the bookstore the other day I saw this book and thought, “shit, there goes my idea.”  [Laughing] perhaps I can recover from this catastrophe somehow.  One can only hope.  Maybe if I add a spin on it and name the book, “How To Be Happy–While Living in a Port-O-Potty.” Of course, that would require me to go homeless, which is plausible I suppose.  In fact, as I was walking to class the other day I felt like I had somehow become the embodiment of Will Smith in film The Pursuit of Happiness.  I am being a little melodramatic.

Tonight it took me two minutes to answer the question , “black or pinto beans.”  I didn’t want to blabber pinto amidst tears, so I just stood there fighting them and then was finally able to speak, “black.”  I changed my mind two seconds later to pinto, instead.  Then, since I was ordering vegetarian, the guy said to me, “you know they have bacon!”  Like I’m some kind of vegetarian sinner, he cast his guilty eye, “yes, I know they are “roasted” in bacon, whatever, if I ever find an actual piece in there I will let you know.  Hasn’t happened yet.

I considered eating my burrito at Chipotle, but I eventually decided to take it home.  Then I sat at my table and stared at the beautiful flowers sent to me just yesterday.  About midway though I couldn’t take it any longer, so I just laid my head down and cried.  Little e wasn’t sent home on his flight today, and I miss him.  I’m exhausted, sad he won’t be to school tomorrow, and worried I won’t get to spend his birthday with him on Wednesday.  Ironically, I was able to read through my last posting,  which forced me to remember what it means to be a mother.  It means that sometimes we have to do hard things, sometimes we have to make sacrifices (and our children have to make sacrifices) in order to grow together. I think that’s what makes the best moms.  It’s not the ones who stay home with their kids (although some would argue this is), or those who know how to construct the perfect cupcake for their child’s birthday party, or even those who breastfeed for two years and let not an ounce of formula touch the lips of their infant.  It’s the mother who shows her child how much she loves him by bettering herself for him/her.  It’s the mother who while bettering herself shares that betterment with her child (a gift that will keep on giving for generations to come).  It’s the mother who always takes the time, no matter how busy life gets, to give her child what she can.  Sometimes, when life is busy, its the little thats given that means the most.

I am missing little e tonight, and I hope tomorrow brings resolve.  I hope he knows I wish I was spending time with him tonight, even though it may not be the most, it’s the most meaningful when we share it.

A whit-ing mom.

Photo taken by Angie Hill @ Google Images.

Daily Cupcake: What? Not Jewish Enough?

In Articles, Blogging, Blogs, Education, Faith, Family, God, History, Humanity, life, literature, Love, Men, Men, Mother, Musings, Parenting, Politics, Stories, Thoughts, Travel, Women, Work, Writing on November 16, 2010 at 7:07 am

It’s quite odd, during the Holocaust many struggled with the idea of being, well, “too Jewish,” or rather Jewish at all.  Lives were literally lost over Jewishness, whether you looked it, acted it, etc.

Well, now there seems to be a new crisis.  Now, we’re dealing with the issue of being “not Jewish enough,” put quite simply.

Check this out.

This post is dedicated to all of those who experienced, survived, or were lost in the horrific Holocaust.  If this is a historical event that interests you I highly recommend the two part comic narrative Maus.

God Bless.


 

Daily Cupcake: For the Homosaps.

In Articles, Blogging, Blogs, Education, English Major, God, Humanity, Laughter, life, literature, Men, Men, Politics, Stories, Thoughts, Women, Work, Writing on November 13, 2010 at 7:53 pm

I thought I would change things up a bit for today and provide you with an excerpt of text.  This one is from Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, which also means that this post won’t show up on several internet servers due to banning (not that anyone from the middle east reads my blog anyway).  For those of you seeing this, enjoy:

“Question: What is the opposite of faith?”

“Not disbelief.  Too final, certain, closed.  Itself a kind of belief.”

“Doubt.”

“The human condition, but what of the angelic.  Halfway between Allahgod and homsap, did they ever doubt?”

“…O God, he cries out, O allgood allahgod.”

Rushdie likes to use puns throughout his writing, created words, in this instance “allahgod” and “homosap” but these are just two of many examples, and they don’t come without intended meaning.  Suggestive of the word allahgod, through the combination of the Muslim Allah and the traditional Christian God is the creation of another dimension, a third space. A place where, perhaps, god and allah are one and the same, or they represent a new type of god  (perhaps any other god worshipped).  He also combines the words “all” and “good” adding emphasis to the fact that “allahgod” is “allgood,” and all encompassing.  Then what are we? “homosap.” This shortened version of our species describes us as “homo,” supposedly knowing; however, with the ending shortened to “sap” indicates a sort of foolishness.  So perhaps Rushdie is suggesting that we, humans, lack an open perspective/judgment concerning god and his universal nature, his allgood, allpowerful, allknowing, presence.

Just something to chew on.

The Roads We Travel

In Faith, Family, God, Happiness, life, Love, Mother, Musings, Parenting, Stories, Thoughts, Writing on September 12, 2010 at 8:22 am

There was a time when I followed the same certain walk to my work everyday.  You can read about it here.  The leaves are beginning to fall and school has resumed, my path is now a different one.  Walking along the other day I began to ponder this and how life leads us in so many directions.  Although this post has obvious analogous properties, it is quite real.

Wednesday I was driving along when I suddenly realized my close proximity to Kaiser and the subsequent need of little e’s kindergarten shots.  My path suddenly took a turn and a few moments later our car sat nestled in a parking spot.  Walking up to the clinic, with a huge grin e questions, “am I getting a shot?”  You should know, there was little fear, this inquisition seemed pure jest.  I thought carefully on how to respond, ultimately deciding honesty the best policy, “yes.”  His demeanor changed almost immediately his body folding inward, the way it always does when he is truly hurt.  Then it escalated to pure anger, running up and down the halls screaming, climbing the beam, hanging from the window, kicking, biting, totally not my e—

I think e has probably thrown three to four tantrums in his life, not his thing.  He’s such a mellow child, the “go with the flow” type, so I knew him to be truly frightened.  I thought back on our recent hospital stay (for a possible hip infection) and the IV’s and pokes which accompanied.  To be so little, he’s getting bigger, but still the world is a vacuum and his little mind couldn’t escape those memories.  It took two nurses and I to hold him down…when they were just about to poke him, his little eyes filled with tears, looking up at me, “Mama, mama, hold me, I’m so scared, hold me mama.”  It was the fear of a child, yet at that second there seemed so much wisdom inside him.  I put my face against his holding back my own tears.  Up until that very moment feelings of exhaustion overwhelmed, pulling him from that window beam, I questioned, “why, is this so hard and I have to do it alone?”  If only I had someone to support me in this moment of difficulty.  Then pausing, with my face against his, an answer came, “you do have someone and he needs you to be strong, “YOU CAN DO HARD THINGS.”

We left the doctors office that day a closer mother and son.  The path we took taught us both something.  For e, he realized mama will always be there, and I saw how much e needs me.  The experience reminded me very much of my life as a whole and the relationship between my Father in Heaven and I.  It is not easy for him to deliver the struggles he is sometimes required to do, but nonetheless he knows they are necessary and required for our growth.  Life isn’t always about being happy–sometimes it’s about fear, and hardship, struggle, and pain.  All of these paths take us places we need to frequent, and offer us experiences and relationships vital to our growth and development as individuals.

In four years I’ve walked many different roads, some have been gradual turns, others indecisive forks; however, all have lent to me, happy me, sad me, scared me–a better me.

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