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Archive for the ‘Humanity’ 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 98: P.S. I Love You

In Books, Humanity, life, Love, Marriage, UK, Women on October 13, 2013 at 3:01 am

When I first saw the film P.S. I Love You, I knew it would always be a favorite of mine. It took me all the way across the world to Ireland, and it inspired my hike through the Wicklow National Forest–the very place where Holly met Jerry. Those that know me, know that I can, and do, watch this film over and over and over–

They often ask me, “why do you love it so much? It’s such a sad story.” While it does have its sad elements, I think there is something terribly empowering about the film. In it Holly has to learn how to make a life of her own because when Jerry dies Holly’s identity dies with him; he’s all she has ever known. She has to learn how to be by herself, one of the hardest lessons someone can endure in this life, and she has to learn how to build the very life that she questions at the start of the film, “I just see all of our friends buying houses and having babies–I wonder when our life is going to start?” Jerry laughs, “Our life has already begun, this is it, this is our life Holly.” After Jerry dies, Holly gets letters from him, the letters aren’t for Jerry, even though he claims they’re sent because “he just can’t let go yet.” They’re for Holly. They act as a mentor on her powerful, and oftentimes difficult journey.

I think we learn to love the things that we identify with. In an interview with the author of the book that inspired the film, the author describes this very feeling, “Writing this book was a very lonely process, but in a lot of ways it was very similar to what Holly experiences within the novel. It’s an isolating process, but you always come out on the other end better for it.”

I don’t watch the film for the “love story” aspect, I watch it because it reminds me how to be powerful and courageous. I watch it because it reminds me that this is my life and I shape the journey (part of the reason I went to Ireland two years ago). At the end of the film Holly’s mother tells her, “just remember that if we’re all alone then at least we’re all in that together too.” 142098210V

Daily Cupcakes: Blogs I Love

In Blogging, Blogs, DIY, Home Decor, Humanity on February 26, 2013 at 1:45 am
{image brought to you by lovely cupcake}

{image brought to you by lovely cupcake}

Today’s featured Daily CupCake: Blogs I Love is about making all things Lovely Indeed.

Not only does this blogger have tons of great DIY ideas within her files, she also has a great, comprehensive list of some fabulous, daily reads.

Lovely Indeed is truly lovely because it’s all about a girl who loves to DIY but that isn’t all her blog is about–and I like that.  It’s great to have a niche, a way to attract readers, but people are dynamic and no blogger does one thing all the time.  I sometimes wonder if bloggers brought more of themselves, the nitty gritty, into their niche, if they would create something even greater.  I wonder if they’d find a missing piece to their blogging puzzle, the one that’s been holding them back from, not so much a better blog, but a blog where the words feel like home.  That’s what a blog should be, you.

So, be a writer, but don’t forget to be a blog of creative output, craziness, and even a tinge of the ugly.

a whit.

Day 77: London Memories.

In Friends, Friendship, Happiness, Humanity, life, Teaching, UK, Wales on January 8, 2013 at 4:42 am

The UK was wonderful.

It’s amazing to me how different the lifestyle is just an ocean skip away.  It’s also amazing how calm I felt while on the farm in Wales and, I believe, I was anxiety/stress free.  I spent 10 days building fires [more like watching fires be built], juicing, tea-ing, drying clothes on the aga stove [with the accent I thought they were saying arga but only now did google correct me], taking fresh-air walks, reading poetry by Simon, enjoying fresh farm bacon and custard.

The list goes on.

The first night as I was lying in bed in the old farmhouse, I peeked out the window only to see complete darkness and the sky lit up with thousands of tiny stars.  It was there that my heart sank and, for me, the journey of my unspoken friendship came full circle. I believed, no I knew, at that moment, that we met for a reason and here it became clear to me.

Years ago now, I made this post about my friend [now one of my best friends].  It was an unlikely friendship, but here we are years later and I began to see the bigger picture.  This special friend met her husband while working in Tiffany’s, he had come in to buy a silver platter as a thank you gift for some friends he was staying with while visiting New York, he was British. They met and love ensued, she moved to London with him and they had their little boy.  I’m sure there was a night where she lie in bed, staring out the window, at the British stars just like me.  While I gazed my mind wandered to this thought.  She was young when she met him, probably my same age that I am now, in love with a Brit, and now here I am in love with one too.  I find it no coincidence that her dying husband arrived back from his very last trip to London on the same exact plane that Konk and I departed on to London, only one hour later. A trip, for us, that would commence a life, on the same exact plane where an end-of-life trip was coming to a close.

I once wrote, “why would she want to be friends with me?”  As I journeyed to London this holiday season I felt the answer deep within my heart.

It’s funny how the answers come, sometimes.  It’s funny how we write, speak, or feel questions not knowing if or when the answers will come.  In a lot of ways, this friend has taught me some of the most meaningful lessons on friendship–those lessons are part of the answer too.

These last couple of days it has been hard to hear of her “Brit’s” rapid decline, almost heartbreaking, my heart aches to think of her London story coming to a close.  She said to me the other day, I wish I was in the UK.  It’s so great, the best.

I thought, yes, you’re right, it is the best. I thought, let’s go there together.  Let’s make another London memory together.  It won’t be the the close of the book, only the chapter.  Could we?

Some questions, well, you know.

a whit who has thought a lot.

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.

The Unseen {Featuring The Advice of Others}: Day 67

In Children, Faith, Family, Happiness, Humanity, Kids, life, Love, Mother, Teaching on August 19, 2012 at 1:07 am

{photo compliments of poshbabystore.com}

This beautiful post by Ashley Sullenger at Time Out For Women really struck a chord with me today.

Her post focuses on her recognized purpose in this life, a purpose designed specifically for her alone.  Of course, her journey isn’t one of isolation though, no, she talks about her daughter, Preslee, and the role little Preslee plays in helping her to see that purpose more clearly.

It’s hard, when you’ve experienced a loss, to see other people living on, doing the things you had planned but that your loss interjected, it’s hard to take 50 steps backward, only to know that you’ll have to make your way forward again.

She entitles her post, “The Princess Dress I Never Saw.”  I’m learning, as I grow and develop in my life and my own journey, that there are so many things we imagine happening or plan for–and they just don’t.  It’s like Ashley says,

Not long after my daughter died, I remember expressing to my mom how painful it was to watch everyone else reach different milestones with their children….It felt like salt being rubbed into a big open wound, being forced to watch other people’s children accomplish what I longed to do with my own daughter.

I felt this exact same way in my lifetime.  It’s been really hard to watch my friends move on with their spouses and build and grow their families.  It is like salt to a wound, and it does ache sometimes.

However, someone put it nicely to me the other day,

It is about sowing the seeds of the future and looking forward to the harvest you have planned for.

Sometimes in the midst of everything, it’s hard to remember to rejoice in the reached milestones and the joy of meeting them.

sometimes it’s easier to be mad.

though, it’s always better to be happy

there will always be princess dresses not seen.

Always.

But this doesn’t mean we won’t see other things.

a whit who is thankful for good advice.

HOLSTEE AUGUST: Remember to Love Because It’s What Makes You Real

In Books, Esteem, Friendship, Happiness, Holstee Manifesto, Humanity, Laughter, life, Love, Teaching, Thoughts, Writing on August 3, 2012 at 8:40 pm

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Love is such an interesting emotion, it’s one of the things that makes me feel vulnerable, but being loved is truly what makes us real–just like the Skin Horse says. It doesn’t happen to people who break easily because love takes toughness, endurance, and perseverance. Love is not like the romance film, it’s much more real than that, and I oftentimes wonder if the people in this world, the ones who truly know how to love, are only those who have endured an entire lifetime giving it to someone. I think it just might take those loose joints, lost hair, and shabbiness to truly understand what it means to love. Perhaps that’s why we’re given an entire lifetime to pursue it, perfect it, and understand it.

In looking through the Holstee Manifesto and it’s proclamations, which we have now made it through in entirety, the only words that appear more than once throughout are: life and love. This provokes something in me, it reminds me of the importance of living a life of sought love. That’s what the manifesto begs. It’s not easy, it will hurt at times, but it’s like this quote states:

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HOLSTEE JULY: How I Seized Life Through An Air Freshener

In Holstee Manifesto, Humanity, Laughter, life, Love, Men, Romance, Teaching, wit, Women on August 1, 2012 at 8:14 am

We’ve almost made it through the Manifesto. Sad but true.

Anyway, I was trying to figure out how to fit the following experience into one of the last left proclamations–attempting to create a moment of inspiration. We’ll see how it goes.

This last week my boyfriend stayed at my house (he works away mostly and it seemed better than him renting a hotel for the short duration of him being back in town).  He decided to get me a gift, one to say thank you for putting up with me, my dirty feet, protein powder spillage, and changing my 3 year-old’s diaper blowout.  Mostly though, he wanted to say thank you for letting him use my bathroom for his ‘starbuck’s special’ as he has entitled them.

His gift was very thoughtful given the aforementioned.

He brings in the Target bag, and pulls out whatever else he has purchased, then leaning towards me as he is simultaneously pulling my gift out of the bag too says, “here, I got this for you. I thought about getting you a couple new soap dispensers (since I cracked both of mine in my move) but I forgot to hit that aisle.  Then he proceeds to hand me an AirWick Limited Edition Air Freshener (OK, it was a little fancier but this is funnier).  I was taken aback, I immediately hugged him and thanked him as he set it up over the toilet (I have since moved it to the bedroom now that he is no longer using my loo for his starbuck’s specials).  He was proud, very proud.

I thought long and hard about this gift.  It really was very thoughtful seeing as he uses the toilet 2, sometimes 3 times per day.  In his mind, he really did have my best interest at heart (or he just couldn’t find the soap dispenser aisle).

So, back to the manifesto: SOME OPPORTUNITIES ONLY COME ONCE, SEIZE THEM.

Seize every moment, whether it’s what you expect or not–just like I did as I was handed a target bag with an aromatic device.  It was really more than an airwick, it was an opportunity for compassion and thoughtfulness.  It’s a smell I cherish now that he’s gone–I love it because it reminds me of a moment, an opportunity, that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

a chicken whit.

Why I Left Facebook (And You Should Too): Day 60

In Blogging, Education, Humanity, life, Teaching, TED Talks on August 1, 2012 at 7:53 am

Today is another posting concerning a TED talk–I seem to listen to these in bouts.

This one deals with something referred to as the 30-day challenge.  Essentially, the 30-day challenge requires you to pick one thing in your life, a thing you would like to change or add, and then implement it for 30 days straight.

I found this interesting, especially since I had no idea this was even a  scientific research ‘thing,’ but that I had done this several times myself within the last year or so.  I’ll explain.

I made a decision one day that too many people that know far too little about me (in real life) know far TOO MUCH about me on the internet.  Didn’t like it. So, I started by purging my Facebook friends list, I went from something like 450 friends down to about 250 and then I let it sit for a few months.  When I returned to it, I recognized it needed more purging so I did it–60, let it sit, and then something like 23.

23.

I had 23 people that I felt comfortable with seeing/viewing/intimately gazing in on my life via the line.

It seemed so pointless to me, so I decided to cut the facebook account.  At first, I thought it would only be temporary.  I figured I’d give it 30 days and then go from there.  Oddly enough, I did have withdrawals in those first few weeks of my friendly fbook’s departure.  I’d find myself cringing at not knowing if Suzie had posted her labor and delivery pictures or if Bozo had finally engaged to his 10-year girlfriend.  I’d reach for my phone every time a good picture or ‘moment’ presented itself and then realize, “Oh, I don’t have facebook anymore.”  And then something else happened, I forgot about it. This is something mentioned in this TED research–it is quite typical that if you give something 30 days within your life that it will become embedded within it and serve as a new lifestyle modification/change.  This certainly happened to me, I am coming up on my almost 1 year mark of my facebook departure and I hardly think of the social networking site now–if at all.  I told a friend the other day how great it is now to meet friends for lunch.  Of course they always commence the conversation with some sadness, “I wish you we’re on facebook still…” or “I went to find you on facebook the other day and you weren’t there (sad face ensues)” and of course the occasional “I just KNEW you would want to ‘like’ this one post but you weren’t there.”  Then the conversation goes on and they proceed to update me on all the facebook happenings–makes me quite happy because I get a bulk of very interesting information about a bunch of people I really don’t care that much about, but that feel the need to share their lives with randoms, and all over a very nice meal.  Seems like a win win to me.

Then there is my most recent 30 day challenge.

Pop.

Soda.

Coke.

Whatever you want to call it.

After looking at my cellulite thighs, yes it is true despite those who mock me (you can be 100 pounds with cottage cheese thighs), I decided for a dietary change.  One of those was my departure from McDonalds Coke (they make it the best), and I can proudly say that after 2.5 months now of touching zero carbonated beverages I feel so much better (and the cellulite disappeared like magic!)  My point here is that this 30 day also stuck–they normally stick.

My next 30 day you ask?  Listen to the news/presidential/election coverage for the next 30 days…here we go.

What’s your 30 day challenge going to be?  Everyone should have one.  Good things stick so why not provoke that, huh.

a determined whit.

Day 59: on being wholehearted

In Blogging, Esteem, Faith, Happiness, Humanity, Laughter, Love, Men, TED Talks, Women on July 30, 2012 at 8:58 pm

Today I am on a flight, again.

I had the privilege of visiting NY, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, all in less than 5 days–whirlwind trip. Very fun, though.

What I am thinking about mostly right now, though, is a TED talk that I listened to on my flight into JFK. I was having a long day, sleep deprived, and I just happened to snap on one of the 5 free Delta radio channels (for the record Delta is a joke). There came words I needed to hear and I find it no coincidence that I started to listen to that very station when I did. For those of you that know TED talks, the briefers are limited to a less than ten minute time period to present their research in the most imaginable and insightful way, so the fact that I caught this particular one is quite lucky.

This talk wasn’t focused on the customary scientific findings surrounding most, no, it was centered more on an emotional type of research that could be classified in the psychological jurisdiction; however, I still felt it to fit its own category of sorts having listened to several TEDs and never encountered one quite like this previously.

The speaker, Brenda Brown, was presenting her research on the topic of wholeheartedness. That is, what constitutes a whole hearted individual. She goes on to explain that she had spent several years interviewing several individuals categorized as wholehearted and then those who live, well, unwholehearted. The first problem, if you could call it that, that she encountered in her research was the notion that those who portray a wholehearted esteem recognize that to be wholehearted one must first accept that this requires making everything that you desire to be certain, uncertain. This was problematic for Brenda because, well, she’s a researcher and to be a researcher is to seek the definitive. She segues to note this first encounter required her to take a 2 year research break and attend weekly counseling, lol. However, once she overcame this realization she was able to even further delve into the information that would enlighten her as to what the belief system requires amongst the wholehearted. She goes on to note:

The way to live is not to control and predict, rather, it’s through vulnerability, the wholehearted live with vulnerability because this is the birthplace of love and happiness. The wholehearted let themselves be seen and they love life with their whole hearts even though there is no guarantee. The wholehearted recognize that you cannot selectively numb emotions. You see, when you numb anger, fear, disappointment, you cannot do this without also numbing love, happiness, and laughter. The wholehearted stop catastrophizing and believe in good, they are grateful because of this. They ask themselves, what makes me vulnerable and then they face it head on. They realize that it is this vulnerability that allows them to be them and to live.

Most importantly though, above all else, Brown’s research found that the wholehearted always believe this:

They believe they are enough.

Brown posed the question on her blog, what makes you feel vulnerable? She felt getting to the heart of this might help individuals to reveal their wholehearted nature. She received thousands of responses.

Waiting for doctor results
Initiating sex with my partner
Saying I love you
Getting a mammogram
Going to the doctor
Looking for a job
Going on an airplane

So I pose this question here, what makes you feel vulnerable? How do you find your way through that vulnerability, or do you?

a thinking whit

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