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Dec 31 2002

Take time to notice beauty

 Categories:  Fondly, Carolyn Comments:   0 comments  Print Friendly Version  |   Share this item
Dear W:

I cannot tell you how relieved I am that B is recovering well. I am really sorry about her foot and hope the prosthesis and physical therapy will be helpful. Perhaps you and she will be able to see them as tools to recovery rather than as a burden, although I suppose they are both. I guess I was a little silly to think that you might need me to come out there when you have so many caring supporters close to home. It sounds like C especially was a tremendous help. That "little" brother of yours has sure turned out to be a good friend, hasn't he? Sometimes, a sad experience like this can actually serve to show you how many people care about you and how fortunate you really are. W, do I sound like some "glass half full or half empty" parrot? I don't mean to, but I do hope you and B will not let this ordeal embitter you and instead focus on the positives and "Take Time to Notice Beauty."

Once during residency, I had my car broken into and all my best possessions stolen. I had my suitcase (full of my best clothes), my good clarinet, and my handmade dulcimer in the car overnight while I was on call. It was a high-crime area, so this wasn't ideal (or even very smart), but this way I could go directly to the airport to travel to play in a friend's wedding. When I found the window smashed and all my things gone, I was stunned. Your mother "called in the troops," and while she sped to my house and packed another suitcase for me, another friend rented a clarinet for me at a music store, and another brought me her dulcimer. Another friend stayed with my car to file the police report, and another took me to the airport. I found myself sitting on the plane smiling because the lasting impression of that experience was not that of being victimized but that of being surrounded by loving friends. I don't mean to imply this problem compared to the challenges you and B are facing now, but it was a very instructive experience for me and helped me learn to pay attention to the good parts of life.

The friend who brought me her dulcimer that day went with me to volunteer one month on the Navajo/Hopi reservation in Arizona. While there, we learned a little about their interesting tribal customs,
herbal remedies, and beliefs, not to mention their tasty mutton sandwiches! In the Book of the Navajo, Raymond Locke describes the Navajo belief that the universe is an orderly system of interrelating elements, including both good and evil. Except for occasional long ceremonies involving hymn-like chants and drypaintings (sand paintings), traditional Navajo culture includes no specific place, calendar, or even word for religion. In fact, visitors and sociologists long thought they had no form of worship, only later to slowly realize that religious philosophy pervaded the daily lives of the Navajo. Many have a profound awareness of the sacred and a consciousness of beauty, poetically expressed in the Navajo Night Chant.

With beauty before me I walk;
With beauty behind me I walk;
With beauty above me I walk;
With beauty below me I walk;
With beauty all around me I walk;
With beauty within me I walk;
It is finished in beauty.
(www.artsmia.org/surrounded-by-beauty)

W, you have always seemed to have an inherently cheerful personality, and what a blessing that is! Even so, it is easy to forget to notice the beauty around you, especially during trying times in your life. You know how much I like "Desiderata" (by Max Ehrmann); it includes this line: "With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world." Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Judaism all teach that, too. In his comforting book, Living Buddha, Living Christ, Thich Nhat Hanh describes the peace and insight that come from being "mindful," noticing all senses, and entering deeply into the present moment. He urges his students to walk mindfully, even to eat mindfully, in order to achieve love and understanding -- values that transcend dogma. Although religions have often been used to justify violence, the core messages of each religion seem to focus on living justly and being aware of beauty and goodness.

The challenges of physicians' daily lives could easily distract us from noticing the beauty around us: in nature, in people, and in ourselves. W, I know you and B are dealing with some particularly tough times right now and it would be understandable if you got discouraged. I hope you both will remember, though, how many people need you and how many people care about you. As it says in the recent remake of the old Bob Dylan lyrics "Forever Young," I hope you both will always be able to "see the light surrounding you."

W, I have enjoyed writing you this year. I want you to know how honored I felt that you asked for my advice and how touched I was that you might listen. I am certain you will be a great physician. You know I am pulling for you!

Hugs to your family and to B.

Fondly,
Carolyn

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