Everyday Miracles

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Despite the many shortcomings of modern medicine (and there are obviously plenty, alas), I still find myself drawn in by so many things that are routine in many healthcare facilities.  I can’t help but be slightly awed every time I see antibiotics work in clearing up an infection.  I’m struck by the fact that brain surgery and cardiac valve replacements are everyday procedures in plenty of hospitals.  Even something as run-of-the mill as x-rays or ultrasounds where the bones or organs can be visualized to direct treatment is amazing in its own way.

My Facebook feed this weekend was full of nursing memes and videos that ranged from the somber to the humorous.  National Nurses’ Day (in the United States) was on May 6, and as many friends and colleagues celebrated, I thought about an article I had come across last month on NPR.  The article features another sort of everyday miracle: waking up after a general anesthetic.

I was totally fascinated by Dr. Shafer’s perspective on the profound moment as a person wakes up after a procedure and her awareness of the awe-inspiring trust the patients place in her and other health care professionals to help them get safely through surgery – or, by extension, any health care experience.  Having worked as a nurse in both recovery (post anesthesia care) and neuro/trauma ICU over the last several years, I couldn’t help but think that Dr. Shafer has captured the essence of the humanity and beauty of the “ordinary” events in modern nursing and medicine.

Want to read more Microblog Monday posts?  Please check out Stirrup Queens’ blog.  Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting.  

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Returning Home

Big time spoilers for The Lord of the Rings – especially the ending – ahead.  

It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of The Lord of the Rings.  There aren’t too many things in my life that have stayed constant since age 14, but these books continue to inspire, motivate, and comfort me.  As I’ve grown, aged, and lived, the meanings have changed, the understandings deepened, but every time I pick them up, I find something new.  When I first read the books, I was thrilled by the exciting adventure, the battles, and, oh yeah, Aragorn.  These days, it’s a different part that I keep turning to read.

One of the things I love about The Lord of the Rings now is the ending.  The movie version leaves out part of the original ending, and I understand that choice at some level.  The original ending is messy, hard, and complicated in a way that’s difficult to translate to the screen.

For those who aren’t familiar with the book ending, it looks initially like a very traditional storybook ending wrap-up.  Then the movie and book part ways: there is evil waiting in the Shire for the returning hobbits.  They have to fight yet another battle to get the Shire back – their home is ugly and changed by that evil.  The book and the movie return to sync when Frodo departs Middle Earth.

When I initially read The Return of the King, the scouring of the Shire irritated me a bit.  It seemed…unnecessary.  The major task was fulfilled, the ring destroyed, the epic showdown at the gates of Mordor fought, and the hobbits returned home triumphantly.  Then Tolkien throws in this seemingly discordant sadness and destruction.  It’s no wonder Peter Jackson left it out of the movie.  It feels unfair that after everything the hobbits have done and the horror they’ve been through they don’t come home to a hero’s welcome, that there’s still more to do.  This isn’t a Harry Potter ending.

Now, though, I get it.  Tolkien has captured the reality of life after being touched by struggle and tragedy, in whatever form that comes to particular people.  You don’t walk through Mordor and remain untouched.  Even once the main event is over and evil seemingly vanquished or at least survived, it’s coming home to find more work to do and reminder after reminder sitting in your front yard.

We walked through Mordor the days my daughter nearly died.  We walked through Mordor when my brother so inexplicably left us.  The days when nothing made sense.

I hoped when we finally came back, naively, it would still be mostly the same.  I knew better.  But I hoped.

Instead, it’s been the weariness of battling back what those journeys took from us.

It’s no longer the epic battles of life and death.  It’s the bitterness at the bottom of the glass, the sh*ttier stuff, but battles that are no less for their smallness.  It’s fighting those unwelcome triggers and reclaiming home.

It’s knowing when to lay down the swords and begin the peaceful work of planting and bringing green life back to damaged land.  It’s showing mercy.  In some ways, this is almost harder.  It requires vulnerability, patience, honesty, kindness, and diligence.  Qualities that some days are tough to muster.

Tolkien doesn’t give Frodo a beautiful happy ending in his beloved Shire.  The wounds simply go too deep.  I take a lot of heart, though, from Sam’s ending.  Sam, who also bore the Ring, touched evil, who also walked through Mordor.  Sam, who “planted saplings in all the places where specially beautiful or beloved trees had been destroyed and he put a grain of the precious dust in the soil at the root of each.  He went up and down the Shire in this labour…”  Sam, who receives these words at the last, painful farewell: “Do not be too sad, Sam.  You cannot be always torn in two.  You will have to be one and whole, for many years.  You have so much to enjoy and to be, and to do.”

That is an ending – or perhaps another beginning – worth all of the work.

The Almost Ending

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Over the last year or so, I’ve found myself curiously obsessed with the endings of stories. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about the ending of Deep Down Dark, and even before that, I critiqued the ending of the Harry Potter series. I’ve started a couple of drafts considering the endings of the Hunger Games series and also The Lord of the Rings, and that’s not counting the drafts I’ve started in my head about the endings of other novels or memoirs.

I spent a good deal of college reading, critiquing, and deconstructing literature. Rarely, however, did my essays involve a heavy focus on the endings. Instead, I was generally more interested in various bits of symbolism, feminist critique, or delving into specific characters. I began to wonder where I’d developed this newfound fascination with how and at what point authors choose to end their stories.

After some consideration, the best reason I can come up with as to why I’m examining the endings of stories so closely these days is because I’m convinced that if my life were contained to a novel or memoir, it would start with trying to conceive and probably end with E’s birth or perhaps when she came home for real from the NICU. I’m at a natural sort of ending point for the journey. I’d like for that to be the case: write “the end”, thank all the lovely people in my life, and close the book.

It’s the neat, tidy ending to complete the infertility story arc.

But it’s not an honest one.

It leaves out the fact that infertility still affects me. It leaves out the wholly-predictable resurgence of my old nemeses depression and anxiety as the dust surrounding my pregnancy and my daughter’s prematurity starts to settle. It leaves out the tension-filled question of what we do with our two frozen embryos and whether or not it’s advisable to even seriously consider another pregnancy at some future point. It leaves out a body that still has issues from PCOS that need addressed. It leaves out so many things, some of them more serious, some just small wisps of half-formed thoughts.

The idea that I’m still somewhere lost in the plot driven by infertility and PCOS scares the h*ll out of me. Some part of me thinks I can remedy this by essentially writing “the end, the end, the END!”, shoving the book on the shelf, walking away, and pretending it’s the decorous ending I described above.

Yet, almost in spite of myself some days, I keep writing.

Clearly, the story isn’t over.

If you want to read more Microblog Mondays posts, head over to Stirrup Queens.  Thanks to Mel for originating the idea and hosting.

Microblog Monday: Literary Crushes

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The other day, I somehow got thinking about the novel A Tale of Two Cities.  With that, came a small wave of nostalgia.  I read it as part of my high school freshman English class and almost instantly had a huge crush on character Sydney Carton.  I mean, what could either Edward or Jacob possibly have over “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done…”?

My original literary crush, however, is Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings.  I was fourteen when I read the books, and more or less fell head over heels for the guy.

Who are your literary crushes, current or past?

What is Microblog Monday?  Want to participate?  Head on over to Stirrup Queens’ blog to check it out!