Wednesday, April 24, 2013


homeopathy, my teacher, my friend.
we walk the soul together
turning over loyal stones of compassion
honest places of depth
daily we travel.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

healing presence

Today, I spent a bit of the day amongst a few intuitive healers. Each healer sported a particular personality; each taught by being his true self. The oldest and wisest among them had a presence that could be felt from at least 50 feet away. Perhaps of Percheron descent, he stood tall, white-haired, and weathered like Gandalf or Dumbledore. His aged years meant that he connected seamlessly and more readily than the other teacher healers to us, the student healers.

He taught the lesson on being present and grounded in this work. Massive hooves planted. His strength and power most obvious, it was the stillness—the calm, quiet, presence that almost felt out of place for one of such stature. I’m not sure how he reigned in such seemingly disparate parts. The royal, stately, Duke, fit for a king, equally comfortable as the gentle soul allowing some weeping into his mane. He immediately honed in on the fact that I wasn’t fully present when I approached him, and turned away mirroring my absence. How did he know that I was holding tension in my gut? How did he tap into all of this without words? His intuitive powers almost seemed harnessed from the magical realm.

He, the teacher healer, didn’t speak at all. And yet he said so much.

Perhaps, I ought to hang out with a herd of horses more often.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


It is the stories that one cannot write that most haunt the mind. The words that will not lend themselves nicely to the page. The ones that refuse to play out into some sort of tightly-knit Aesop’s Fable lesson. The ones that dig heels in and cannot be shaped or sculpted into something creative or beautiful. These images sit like space occupying lesions to borrow the language the Oncologists use.

Put it down for a while. Leave it here.

One had no idea something so simple could be so hard.

Put it down for a while. Take a break from it.

But, what if no one else will carry it? What if no one else will bear to look into the glow? What if no one else will search for answers where the questions are unseen?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

tethered perspective

One of the key advantages of being a member of the helping profession is the opportunity afforded to observe closely, the breadth and depth of all sorts of human experience. Like peering at the whale of humanity from the bottom of the ocean, the underbelly swimming above, far off floating silhouette of your long lost boat, the murky dark edges do appear to go on forever.

I think I get why this perspective could make you feel anxious and sad all at once.

Or hanging upside down in the cave of bats while the blood rushes to your head, I think I get why it feels especially difficult to think and your throbbing head feels as if it might explode. In the sacred context of the doctor patient relationship, I often find myself on a journey outside of my own perspective, led around vicariously through dark experiences, by my patients.

Most of the time, I can’t help but come away from this sacred space a little bit transformed. Sitting with wounded people, my own perspective often has to expand to hold the space for things percolating beneath the surface of polite conversation, the place where you’re frightened of the dark, or scared of bears, and the monsters under the bed try to grab your feet when you dive under the covers as the lights go off. I feel privileged every time I step softly into this psychic space with my patients.

The oft cited words of my mentor echo, Your patients will teach you much if you allow the space for it.  I remember thinking before graduating that Obi Wan Kenobi was just trying to make me feel more ready for the shift to being a physician. He’s just trying to make me feel better as I’m lambasted with graduation and that overwhelming sense that levels most of us new doctors in a sea of feeling as if we really know absolutely nothing.

He’s trying to make me feel better about cutting the educational, umbilical cord.

The truth is my patients do teach me much. Every day. They teach with their individual perspectives on their collectively similar tragedies. Everybody bleeds this way, just the same.

Sometimes I think doing this helping work is a bit like living a bunch of different lives simultaneously. I walk around with a rolodex of others' experiences in my head. I hear the talk of people sitting around the table, walled in by their own narrow perspective, trapped by assumptions or stories they've told themselves for years. It can't be otherwise. He must not even care.

I realize I'm no different in telling myself stories. But, I get the gift of sitting regularly with the heavyhearted. I get the opportunity of gaining insight by being absent from my own perspective for a while, then returning. I get to be an astronaut drifting in space, looking freshly at the blue and green earth swirls. The Overview Effect its been called. My own story smacks me in the face in a new way. Gifts I didn’t see before stare back at me. Things taken for granted assault me.

I didn’t really have it all that bad. In fact, things were mostly, good in my childhood. My life is rich.

And sometimes the perspective transformation, the blinding re-entry burns a bit more radically and I’m left tumbling my way back into the atmosphere to some sort of spirituality that makes sense of experiences so far from my own. I have to rely on the bells that have stopped jingling from my ankles, praying that the tether to Big Oak Tree on the edge of the forest somehow holds well enough for someone to pull me back and help me land.

Monday, February 18, 2013

weeping at the moon
artwork by Raina Gentry

I don’t know why I sit here tears dripping, under the moon. Crickets scratching their legs, the sound of the freeway in the distance. I have no reason to be sad. No badness of a day, no complete and utter failures, nothing went all that wrong, today. In fact, things went mostly right.

I haven’t really thought of my brother in a long time, even thinking of him now, that’s not it.

Instead, there’s the cool night air, Seussian silhouettes all around.

Looking up into the sky, halo around the moon’s fullness, little dark spots on it’s circle, I feel something, I know not what. And that something feels like sadness. And I have no idea why I’m weeping at the moon.


Saturday, February 16, 2013

cold as it gets

When my soul aches singer-songwriter Patty Griffin often has ways of capturing apt expression of that ache. This song feels about right, now.

To the end of the earth
I’ll search for your face
For the one who laid all of our beauty to waste
Threw our hope into heaven
Our children to the fire
I am the one who crawled through the wire
I am the one who crawled through the wire.

There’s a million sad stories
On this side of the road
Strange how we all just got used to the blood
Millions of stories that’ll never be told
Silent and froze in the mud
Silent and froze in the mud.

I know a cold as cold as it gets
I know darkness that’s darker than cold
A wind that blows as cold as it gets
Blew out the light of my soul
Blew out the light of my soul.

I dream in my sleep, 
I dream in my days
Some sunny street now so far away
Where up in a window
A curtain will sway
And you and I’ll meet down below
You and I’ll meet down below.

I know a cold as cold as it gets
I fight a war I may never see won
I live only to see
You live to regret
Everything that you’ve done
Everything that you’ve done
Everything that you’ve done.

-Patty Griffin 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

dear front desk girl

I wrote this as a student. As a conscientious student, I remember feeling the angst of how annoyed the front desk girls were with me. As weird as it sounds, they were most angered by the students who actually did their homework. Because it demanded time and energy from them. They had to pull the charts. They had to work on Saturdays to help us. The ones who showed up on weekends to research their patient's charts...This was me working out my angst in poem form. 

I know it must seem that I’m always at your window
to bug you,
asking for a chart, or even for a stack,
or for you to access
that all-powerful schedule that reigns over both of our lives.
my furrowed brow might seem to convey anger.

in reality, 
I’m concentrating
on the next thing
Mr. Attending asked me to do,
after he told me
how wrong I was
the last time.
might suggest
that I’m not taking the teaching seriously, enough.

and sometimes, only sometimes,
furrowing my brow
making it harder 
for the tears to stream
down my face
when I’ve fucked something up, 
yet again.

I know it must seem
I’m demanding so much
on the days 
when I come back
like some adolescent.
pulling up to the drive-up In and Out.
I imagine 
it is rather annoying.
what now?
you must think
as I approach for the umpteenth time.

in reality, 
some days the demanding weights
almost crush.

world full of Attendings
in multiple directions,
usurping or contradicting one another.

never doing enough.
never learning enough.
chart note, never quite right enough.

sometimes, crazy as it is
I lighten my load
creating a delusional reality
I’m not the one being pushed around.

I know it must seem that I’m moody as I stand here

in reality,
I'm pausing,
catching my breath
as my patient just left.
the conversation we had took effort.

to get it right,
to communicate 
to not fall down in a puddle on the floor.

appropriate expressions,
did not come easy.

new to this realm
of carrying other people’s burdens,
I’ve never had to tell someone
of the cancer
found inside the walls of ovaries.

now I’m standing at this window,
my soul.

letting my guard down
worrying not
about smiling.

I don’t know much,
I have learned that ovarian is a bad one.