For Wordless Wednesday.
I was already a mother when I became a mother. Long before I had my son. I just didn’t know it.
I became a mother at three. My mother had tuberculosis when I was born. Luckily she coughed blood a month before, otherwise I would not be here. I was born in a tuberculosis sanatorium, the first baby there in 25 years. My mother said that the staff was hugely excited about a baby. She was drugged to the gills while reading about the French Revolution and hallucinated Marie-Antonette’s head on a pole and the guillotine. She joked that she could never read about the French Revolution again. I was born, she kissed me, and I was swept away so that I would not get tuberculosis.
I was with my father and father’s family and then with my maternal grandparents. I came home to my parents at nine months. Adults kept handing me to other adults. I concluded that they were loving but stupid and couldn’t be trusted for a moment.
My sister was born five days before I turned three. My mother said that I met guests at the door and said, “Come see my baby.” Mine, because these adults don’t understand the needs of a baby, and I want her to feel loved and safe. No one will give my baby away!
Later my mother would tell a story about my sister worrying about Kindergarten. My mother could not reassure her. Neither could my father. I spoke up: “All you learn is colors, numbers and ABC and you already know those. I taught you.” My mother claimed that my sister was instantly reassured. I don’t remember: these are my mother’s stories and she is gone. But I have collected mother daughter pictures and small statues, just a few, all my life. And I wanted to have children. I liked surgery and obstetrics, but I chose family medicine, because I want to have children and to see them and be a mother too.
Health and joy and safety and comfort to all mothers and fathers and children everywhere.
The letter X in Blogging from A to Z.
X for xerotic, which means x-rated erotic…
No, just kidding. Xerotic means very very dry skin or dry eyes and it’s a medical term. We do have xerosis as a medical term. As we get older our skin gets drier. One of my dermatologist friends says that we lose our bubble wrap: the layer of fat padding the skin thins until our hands bruise with normal daily activity.
Have you felt xerotic? This has been a long week in clinic and I am feeling tired and sad for some of my patients. My spring of ideas for healing is dry at the moment and I need to rest. I am going on a beach walk today. I need healing too, to be at an oasis, to be nurtured and cared for. Maybe xerotic is not used that way but it could be.
Two more letters and one more day.
I took the photograph on a hike at Joshua Tree in 2009.
V is for vulnerable, in Virtues and views, Blogging from A to Z.
Is feeling vulnerable a virtue or a vice?
I don’t think feeling vulnerable is either a virtue or a vice. It’s a feeling. It is a feeling that our society puts pressure on adults, particularly males, not to feel. Or not to admit.
I read Robert Johnson, PhD, Owning our own shadow. He asks what three aspects of ourselves we are most proud of. For me, at that time, the triad was toughness, smarts and independent. He says that the opposite, or shadow, of that triad, is what we are most afraid of….
….oh, and he had me there. I look in my mirror and see someone smart, tough, independent, and terrified of being vulnerable.
I am much less terrified now. I am a physician: everyone is sick sometimes, vulnerable sometimes, everyone does dumb things sometimes, and dependence will come as well as death. I needed to bring that fear out of the shadow and make friends with it. Bringing those shadows forward is hard work! I don’t want to! But I can and I like to work and I am good at working. Small steps daily on a path with love and thought and care…..
1. capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, as by a weapon:
a vulnerable part of the body.
2. open to moral attack, criticism, temptation, etc.:
an argument vulnerable to refutation; He is vulnerable to bribery.
3. (of a place) open to assault; difficult to defend:
a vulnerable bridge.
4. Bridge. having won one of the games of a rubber.
So we ALL fall under the first definition! ALL OF US!
Our culture derides and conflates vulnerability with weakness sometimes. Don’t let it. Stand up. Speak out. Do not let fear stop us….
Back to 7 sins and friends, virtues and views. I am behind on the Blogging from A to Z, sick yesterday. When I overdo I get a massive headache, nausea and have trouble standing upright.
Are you kind? Kindness is one of the Seven Heavenly Virtues, to oppose the sin of envy.
And that is interesting. Dictionary.com lists the following for kind:
adjective, kinder, kindest.
1. of a good or benevolent nature or disposition, as a person:
a kind and loving person.
2. having, showing, or proceeding from benevolence:
3. indulgent, considerate, or helpful; humane (often followed by to):
to be kind to animals.
4. mild; gentle; clement:
5. British Dialect. loving; affectionate.
But it lists the antonym as cruel, not envious.
Have the words changed meaning? Do you think of kindness as the opposite of envy? Does envy lead us to be cruel?
I took this photograph in the fading light and so it is soft and grainy. I am thinking that for me walking outside and going to nature is healing. Walking in the beauty of the earth and the evening night falling, it feels as if the earth itself is kind. I don’t think any feeling is evil: but I would rather manage envy on my own. I would rather act on kindness.
There is more than one list of seven virtues. Courage, or bravery, goes back to Aristotle and Plato as one of the four cardinal virtues.
What is bravery to you? An extreme sport? A warrior?
My sister endured cancer treatment for 7 years, over 30 rounds of chemotherapy. She said, “People say I am brave, but they don’t understand. I don’t have a choice. It’s do the therapy or die.” It’s still brave, though, isn’t it.
The person who comes to my mind for bravery is a woman, a long time ago. She spoke Spanish and we had a translator. Her son had had rheumatic fever and they had gone to the pediatric cardiologist for the yearly visit. Her son had a damaged heart valve that was getting worse. He was somewhere between 9 and 12.
“The heart doctor says he needs surgery. He needs the valve replaced. But the heart doctor said he could die in surgery.” she said.
I read the notes and the heart ultrasound. “The heart valve is leaking more and more. If he doesn’t have the surgery it will damage his heart. He will be able to do less and less and then he will die. If he has the surgery, there is a small chance that he will die. But if he doesn’t, he will be able to grow and to run and to be active.”
She said, “I am so afraid.” But she returned to the pediatric cardiologist. And he got through the valve replacement surgery and did fine.
That is courage to me. The parents who take chances for their children: get into boats to escape war. Search for treatments. Fight for their home, their children, their loved ones. It is both men and women, mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, and people who have no blood relation to a child that they reach out to help. Adoption, volunteering in schools, supporting a student, supporting an organization that helps children grow and thrive.
Mostly I post photographs from outdoors, but this is clinic Friday afternoon. Mordecai took off her feather boa, wig and headdress and came into the exam room to add to a visual discussion about the sacroiliac joints. Mordecai is a plastic skeleton and her sacroiliac joints are attached incorrectly but conveniently for the sellers. After all, her bones don’t have the weight of a real skeleton nor does she have tendons or muscles or skin to connect everything. She is sitting beside my Netter Atlas of Human Anatomy, which I use in clinic every day. To show the knee ligaments and menisci, to show the back muscles, to show the connections of the psoas muscle….
Many thanks to Dr. Netter’s brilliant paintings and also to Mordecai for their help!