does survival surpass living fully? or does living fully guide you to survival? does one define you and the other define your species? if yes, which one?
success is relative to the world you torment yourself in.
The world impacts people in different ways.
It’s not a burden, it is just heavy.
I spend countless moments thinking about stories.
I spend countless mornings thinking about the 35 year old woman who went into cardiac arrest. A few minutes later, she opened her eyes. Her eyes immediately flooding with tears. She asked the physician if she was going to be okay. He replied, you’ll be okay. Twenty minutes later she fell back into cardiac arrest. Her eyes didn’t open to ask him again. Her eight year old son standing outside the sterilized glass door, covered with a blue strung fabric.
I spend countless afternoons thinking about the woman who asked me how it was fair that a court order took her daughter away from her. How was it fair that the man who had abused her and inflicted so many years of pain, took the one being that was her life? Was the life that came from her. I didn’t know how to respond.
I spend countless evenings thinking about strangers in market places. Asking me to pray for them so that they could return to the land that they had fled from. The home they fled from. Home. They spoke of not recognizing the places they grew up around, now rubble and dirt. They spoke of friends dying in front of them.
I spend countless nights thinking of the time I was in a foreign land and saw a couple beat each other on the street at three in the morning. I saw the blood dripping from the woman’s mouth as she fell against the red colored brick of the building behind her. I saw the blood on her hands and the unfazed demeanor of the man who stood above her. I stood, trying to get the attention of a police officer, only to see that he saw. But, turned the other way.
I begin to wonder if the land that we walk on actually feels everything that is being committed on it.
Will we be held accountable for our toxicity?
I climbed up the straight, sandy mountain. Icy wind scratching against my face. I touched my chest as it felt constricted against the increasing altitude. As I ascended, there came a point where the earth flattened and all I saw was valley. Herds of animals shifting through the narrow gaps of sturdy stone walls and a gentle clicking noise the shepherd made with his tongue. I was enveloped. Completely immersed in the vastness of mountains and I. was. insignificant. I am infinitesimal, I thought. But, I smiled. It wasn’t a bad feeling to feel that way. It wasn’t depreciating, or self-loathing. It was the truth. To experience a point where all you see is infinite, but feel so finite. To hear nothing but the sound of wind and echoing horses galloping in the distance. I closed my eyes and sat on a stone, facing the path climbing up towards my destination. I inhaled the dry, thin air.
The peaks and valleys that came as I trotted through the next six hours seemed to shed every layer that I held onto. The layers of dirt that I had placed over the good parts of myself. The patches I had maneuvered over my wounds and scars. They all slowly began to shed. The weight I had been holding over my chest lightened as I climbed higher and higher. It was as though the knots that I had tied around my own wrists were being untied. The exhaustion of that climb on my body, in a way, lifted the pain that the past had inflicted onto it – physically, mentally, emotionally.
I can still visualize what it was like when I could see the top of the mountain. I bent over, clenching my chest to try to catch my breath. My feet slipping from the sand that kept sliding underneath. I held onto the rod. My eyes welled with tears from the excessive amount of wind blowing. I pushed. My feet ascended one after the other as I slowly made my way to the top. Feeling the pain, but not letting it stop me from moving forwards.
At the end, I realized that pain can often stop you in your tracks. It can stop you from living and loving. It can stop you from seeing the world and all the beauty it beholds. And you have to make a choice. To push to the top and let the pain shed parts of you. Or to let the pain hold you back. There’s a point where we realize that we have to stop being driven into servitude by the depths and darkness of our own minds. Every human has so much light that they should ascend towards, through the pain and constriction and exhaustion, to finally find Life.
Acute distress. Unresponsive. Pupils are fixed and nonreactive to light. Distended jugular veins. No spontaneous respirations. Breath sounds are equal, but only with artificial ventilations. Pale skinned. Evidence of petechial or ecchymosis. Neurologically unresponsive to pain or voice.
I wrote as the hiccuping sound of the automated chest compressors whirred. Multiple bodies moving in front of me, putting an IO into an unresponding leg.
He doesn’t have a DNR. We’re going full code.
The bodies moved more quickly.
Get the first dose of epi ready here. Is someone timing?
The mechanical compressors slowed and completely stopped as the manual compressions were started. One hand over the other, forcibly pounding on the chest as if desperately knocking on a door.
It was as if time were fleeting as quickly as adrenaline rushing through the patient’s bloodstream. Pulsating through to resuscitate the core of this human. Time was pulsating. With moments of waiting and moments of unapologetically forcing the body past its limits in order to revive itself.
The body lay there, as if it was saying I have had enough.
The white coat ran out and quickly rushed into an empty room with a gray-haired woman sitting on a wheelchair. He grabbed her hand and told her the body that was laying in the room was not doing well. Patient was given compressions for over twenty minutes.
Oh, just let him go. She wrapped her arms around the warm white coat. Don’t let there be anymore pain. It’s time. No tears were shed. She just shook slightly in the already sterile, air-conditioned room. But I don’t want to see him. Just stop trying to save him.
Okay, he gently touched her shoulder and ran back out of the room.
The compressions stopped. The body lay motionless, but the bodies surrounding it breathed heavily and wiped sweat off their brows. It was pale. Adrenaline aimlessly subdued within the bloodstream. There was silence, but the beeping of other rooms and footsteps pacing back and forth through the halls echoed around the white spotless floors and white walls.
Time of death.
I wrote it down.
*The story is drawn from multiple real life experiences*
Dedicated to my grandfather.
I had my head wrapped in a book that was tattered at the edges and the delicate pages smelt like peppermint pipe tobacco.
Excuse me, can I talk to you for a few minutes?
I lifted my head at a man smiling at me. He had a familiar smile, buzz cut hair, his septum was pierced, and he had a beautifully etched world map on his right shoulder.
I’m working on a project that deals with spaces and I’ve chosen the old and rare section of the bookstore. I only have a week to finish it, do you mind answering a few questions?
I nodded and held my place within the book.
He introduced himself and pulled out a journal to scribble my answers down. I introduced myself and teased him about working on his project so late.
He asked simple, but unconventional questions. Things you don’t typically think to ask close friends or family, let alone a stranger in a bookstore.
Why do you like bookstores?
They’re a place to think. For me, bookstores are a place to recharge and refuel my mind. And, get lost a little bit.
What brought you here?
The word rare.
How does the word rare make you feel?
I paused. My hand still placed inside the crinkled pages of the hard covered book.
I guess, in terms of the bookstore, it makes me feel like I am amongst things that are unappreciated because they’re not outwardly exposed. And it makes me feel like I have a responsibility to understand the parts of the world that are not always appreciated, because, in a way, that is a way you can respect and glimpse into humanity. They’re also just forgotten pieces of people and history that deserve recognition.
His pen moved quickly as I spoke. One second let me get this down.
Okay, is this your favorite bookstore?
Haha, no. I have so many, but there is one back home. It’s a hole in the wall and you can always find hidden gems. Like, I found this book of poems from the 1920s that has annotations from the person who read it in the 1920s!
Oh wow. How did you feel when you found that book?
I laughed. You’re bringing out all the feels aren’t ya?
Well, space always has feeling.
Hmm. I guess I felt like I was given a gift. I felt honored. Not only did I find a book that’s written beautifully, but I was also given a piece of someone else’s thoughts. Like, the book in itself is the author’s mind riddled down on pages, but I received the blessing of a reader’s thoughts as well. It’s just incredible that I have their interaction and perspective from the 1920s and now I am able to look at a book written in their time, and have a perspective from my own world. It also just feels like an interaction with a stranger that may not be in the world anymore.
He asked me a few more questions and finished writing things down in his leather bound journal.
Awesome. Thank you for talking to me and I’ll leave you alone now!
I laughed, thanked him for asking me the questions, and told him that I loved the world that was etched into his shoulder.
People give me slack for not having Greenland on here, but I couldn’t fit the whole world on my shoulder, it’s too small.
We said our goodbyes and he walked out of the dusty old bookshelves. I re-opened the book and began skimming the typewriter letters on the firm, crinkled parchment. And, in front of me I read,
A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.
I’ve always loved listening. Listening to others tell their stories. Listening to them pave their way into the world, leaving footprints to be admired for generations.
I find people interesting. Each individual I have met has such an amazing and unique story because we are all different. I see everyone as a walking, talking novel. There’s always a back story. An obstacle. A climax. A certain enigma that is waiting to be solved. And, each individual is the protagonist of their own narrative. They find themselves in certain situations and make decisions depending on their growth at that moment. A few pages down the line, they may make a different decision, but the chapters that have been written before were essential to carry them through those pages [I don’t even know if that makes sense]. Sometimes we carry certain chapters with us that we should have just moved on from, because re-reading sentences only gets you so far.
My understanding of the world comes from listening. It comes from observing the little quirks that make up each human, which I find beautiful. And, you don’t always have to agree with everyone to still find them to be an extraordinary soul. Everyone approaches life in different capacities and somehow the world has movement and rhythm. Our souls connect more through conversation and we get etched into a few pages of each others’ stories. We may take up chapters or a few sentences. We may have been the antagonist in someone’s life by merely hurting them, but they could have been the support in ours. We fill in the gaps of intricacies and sometimes are the source of complexities.
There’s a consistent ebb and flow of people coming into and out of our lives. We grow with people until we can’t and that is when they leave. Some souls stay with us from the moment we are born until our last breath. Some come in during a time when we may be struggling. Some you don’t talk to often, but you can still feel connected to. Some add to our happiness. Some take away our happiness.
But, at least personally, I feel as though each soul has taught me something valuable that I am grateful for. Perhaps lending me a lens I never used. Bringing up a thought that never crossed my mind. Showing me hate so that I would never dare come close to that word. Even through struggles and toxic people, I am learning that they were supposed to be a part of my story to teach me something. And, at least in my life, I believe even the toxic people have good hearts. They are just battling with their own demons, writing and editing their own stories.
I’ve discovered that this perspective is a part of me. To be consistently enamored with the bodies and souls that waltz through this world. That is why I’ve always preferred to talk less and listen more. In order to persistently absorb the stories that these beautiful people coming and going into my life have to offer. If we constantly drown the voices of the world with our own, how are we supposed to hear the diversity of sounds that fill the air?