Archives for category: Music

I’ve been influenced by Atul Gawande as much as the next young doctor. I have Complications and Better sitting on my bookshelf, and they’ve travelled with me from New York to Chicago to California, set aside in my “keeper” pile through multiple book sales and donations along the way.

His new book, Being Mortal, is about end-of-life care. It’s getting attention as one of the best books of the year, but the entire premise bites and gnaws at me. It was so clearly written by, for and about people who have a certain kind of modern life experience. People who bury their elderly parents after a long illness, and who will be buried by their own children after a long illness. I know this can’t encapsulate Gawande’s full professional experience – after all, he is a surgeon, and has been exposed to all manner of unexpected tragedy. But, as he explains, it does seem to encapsulate his personal experience. And that personal experience (and lack of experience) strongly impacts his work (even though the book is non-fiction).

For example, he writes,

“The striking thing is that if you go back to the 19th century and before, people were at risk of dying at every moment in their lives. Families were bigger because you would lose a child, commonly, sometime through childhood. Mothers would die in childbirth. Being alive was associated with a special risk of death! Now we can live our lives without really feeling our lives are fragile at all. Without feeling there are limits to what we can do.”

This makes me want to scream: I am alive today, and it is not the 19th century. You’re describing my modern-day lived experience of life as thought it were a strange relic of the past!! My son died in (very early!) childhood and I was at high risk of dying during childbirth. I know that any moment of life, from conception onward, is associated with a special risk of death. I really feel (know) that my life is fragile! I feel (know) that there are limits to what I can do!

Who are you writing about, Atul Gawande?? Who are you writing to? Who is this “we”? Your “we” has nothing to do with me or my family. This book’s ideas about what medical students know, what residents think, how doctors function, is so far removed from what my life is like, what my brain is like, what my practice of medicine is like.

This discordance makes me feel isolated, outcast and misunderstood. I know this is a book about people dying in old age. But is facing mortality through the early death of a young loved one truly such a unique experience? Is the rest of the modern world as innocent as Gawande’s treatise makes it seem? Is he just expressing humility about his own knowledge level, or have I become so different from everyone else?

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I’m about to share the romance of pregnancy in a way that might be difficult for those who are trying to conceive or suffered an early pregnancy loss… in the right moment, though, it might help facilitate the grief of those experiences? Just a warning.

Purity Ring – Fineshrine

This is my jam right now. It wasn’t written about pregnancy or motherhood, just a love song, but.. I can’t help but think that it really is about motherhood. There are intimate relationships, and then there’s the one relationship so intimate that it actually involves carrying the other person around all day within your body. We may fantasize about having that kind of intimacy with our lovers, but we can only ever truly have it with our babies.

The video has a lot of parallels to baby loss as well — loving someone who is shrouded, almost as in a dream, then discovering they cannot love you back (“turned to stone”, just like in so many fairy tales, just like in the Bible). And suddenly they’re gone, as though they’d never been there. The only trace is the physical injury, the physical change.
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During the first months after my baby son’s death, I often felt that I was on the verge of sublimating. I was bound to explode into a gaseous cloud of disconnected molecules that would disperse and leave no trace. There was an allover burning sensation, and a sense that I needed to intensely focus if I wanted to keep the various pieces of myself together, like Peter Pan pinning his shadow to his shoe. The effort to remain whole was laborious and ultimately impossible. The red-tinged cloud of my heart frequently drifted out the door while my vaguely floating skin maintained appearances by hovering above the couch.

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