Wednesday, May 21, 2008

"Scars are tatoos with stories" Toyota ad

I have heard that our histories are stored in our bodies. I know of counselling techniques based on this premise. I also know people who have benefited from the application of these techniques to help them find old psychic wounds and heal them.

I have been wounded by the surgery to my throat and my neck. This experience has changed me in ways that I am just beginning to understand. Not the least of these is an increased awareness of the condition of the people that I encounter day to day. I find that I have more time to listen to their stories and share mine if they ask. This alone would be worth the process in which I am engaged.

Pastor Mark reminds me that we are meant to be in relationship with each other. I don't do well as an "island" unto myself. How nice to learn that the more I care for someone else, the less self absorbed I become. What a relief!

During the time in which I was unable to speak comfortably and was often alone, I discovered that I enjoyed not talking. My thoughts turned less to the trivial and more to the profound. I found that this journal was very conducive to the organization of these thoughts....pulling order from the normal chaos in my head.

I must now undergo another period of not speaking. I will find it difficult to speak comfortably by the end of June. This will last at least three weeks. During this time I will be able to respond to email and will continue to blog. Though I don't look forward to the discomfort, I am more than curious about the lessons that I will be given. In some ways this experience has had the elements of a sabbatical for me. A "time out" in my life.

I came across a very moving website this evening. It is a literary website for doctors at the University of Chicago School of Medicine.
The stories on this site engender in me a great appreciation for those who dedicate their lives to our health. You may enjoy it too. Here follows and example:

The Poetry of Medicine
Poetry and medicine intersect in the domain of body and speech.
The iambic lub-dub of the heartbeat, repeated five times, once for each finger of the hand, gives us the prototypic stanza of english verse, iambic pentameter:

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day ?
My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun
I have been half in love with easeful death

Against the heartbeat play the more subtle meters of the breath, of sleep and waking, of sex, hunger, childbirth, hope and hopelessness. The body is a fugue of interwoven rhythms.
If we translate the beautiful Latin of our clinical vocabulary, we discover cisterns in our head, boats in our wrists, vinegar cups in our hip joints. We hear through wings and shells. A rainbow surrounds our pupils.

Even the Alphabet seems derived from the body. With the Os of Ocular, Olfactory, Oral, and Otic, our senses open on the world.

In medicine, hearts gallop, murmur, burn, rub, skip, attack, fail, arrest. In poetry, hearts ache, break, ease, rend, harden, throb. A living metaphor sings inside our ribcage. Poems move along our synapses, associatively. Thyroid gland, bowtie, butterfly. Freud, one of Medicine's great poets, knew this.

There is an ancient impulse to tell stories, to create rituals for the moments of birth, coming of age, marriage, and death, to find what is binding and universal in the isolating particulars of our experience. In medicine, we are privileged attendants at these moments. Moments that come to us as well.

Before the writer must come the reader, the listener, the observer. We are immersed in the strange poetry of our patients' histories, in the rhythms of their speech; we must fathom the significance of a hesitation, a repetition, an unexpected cadence. We must hear the unspoken, decipher their secret code, their metaphors. The double meaning of semiotics: relating to semantics, relating to symptomatology. And at times we are witnesses as Language itself unravels, fails, and reveals the raw machinery of brain — aphasias, slips of the tongue, schizophrenic neologisms — unmasking hidden connections, utter disconnections, the weird contingencies of meaning, the perils of communication. Our avant garde.

Paula Tatarunis
Newton, Massachusetts

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dearest Jim,

I hadn't been on here in a few oh my! Reading your blog is like daily meditation. I personally have enjoyed all your posts.

We used the 23rd psalm at my father's graveside; the story about the Hot Wheels is cause for thought, as well as the one about the lady who found comfort in one singled-out possession...a bathrobe.

I fully respect the way you are handling this "human condition", and think it is more than generous that you have created the blog to allow others a glimpse inside. You being who you are, I am certain that you have been inundated with calls and emails...I hope the blog serves you well.

I am seem to be reading...did you ever get around to "The Worst Hard Time"? I just know that you would enjoy the book.

Well, I have never "blogged" before, and probably am not doing it correctly, as I seem to be treating this as a personal, individual email...Jim, take care, we love you, and God bless!

Lots of love, Donna and Bernie