|Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.|
“Petrichor” is the smell produced by the first rain on dry ground. It is a wonderful word as well as one of my favorite scents. We just had a couple of weeks of dry, sunny weather followed by some pretty intense rainfall, and the petrichor, though faint, was evocative. As always, it brought back a singular memory:
I have been in a major funk, feeling sorry for myself. I don’t imagine it’s pretty, but my friends have been supportive nonetheless. One particularly close friend was having problems of his own, having recently been ripped off by a huge, faceless corporation that refuses to even acknowledge his existence beyond threatening to make his life miserable if he doesn’t pay their spurious charges. The amount of money is more than trivial, but less than catastrophic. For him, though, the experience has been devastating, as he has been made to feel that he has no control over his financial affairs (I think any victim of identity theft or an IRS mistake can probably relate).
What happens when tolerance meets intolerance? Won’t intolerance always prevail?
I simultaneously trained in both family medicine and psychiatry. That road has frequently landed me in a situation where I will be in a general medical clinic when someone comes in having a psychiatric crisis. I am often called upon to intervene. Invariably, when the intervention is successful, the first comment I hear is “I don’t know how you do that.” My usual flip answer is “Magic.” I wondered, myself, for a long time. I watched non-psychiatrically trained colleagues — who were smarter than I, more empathic than I, more experienced than I — struggle with these suffering patients. I could credit my specialized training, my appearance, good fortune, the aura of mystery surrounding psychiatry (a placebo effect?), or the tone of my voice. Doubtless, all play a role. The “magic,” though, ends up being a remarkably simple thing. I shall now reveal the secret:
One of my favorite college writing workshops was focused on “short short” stories, exercises in very short fiction. I ran across an archive from a 1990 course. No great literature, here, but perhaps a bit of fun.
— RonRisley – 09 Feb 2005
In 1988 I closed my information technology consulting practice and embarked on a thirteen year quest to become a physician. It was a journey filled with remarkable people and events. Among the most memorable people was Elizabeth Keating, Ph.D. who taught an obscure English 205 course at San Diego City College. Dr. Keating was a small, older woman with a big presence, an English accent, and very definite opinions about writing.
I woke up today with a cold, a URI, the sniffles, maybe the flu, the crud, whatever you want to call it, I felt (and feel) horrible. It is the sort of day when I wanted to slide back under the covers and sleep until I feel better. It was also a day, though, when Matthew decided to wake up at 3:00am. It was also laundry day, and meals needed to be prepared, and electric trains needed to be repaired and then put away, and the house needed to be cleaned. Three years ago I wouldn’t have bothered. Now, I have little choice, as most of Matthew’s needs cannot wait on my health. Which brings me to a realization I have had time and again since Matthew was born: single parents have it tough. Tougher than I ever imagined, in spite of having been housemates with single moms a couple of times in my life.
I had a bad day today. A bad day on top of a monumentally stressful week that included the loss of an old friend to a tragic illness and the loss of a new friend to a tragic misunderstanding. The kind of bad day that starts out when someone you really care about finds a little knife in your ribs and twists it around a bit; a day that continues with someone else threatening legal action against you; a day that then throws in a gastrointestinal illness to make doubly sure you can’t shrug any of it off. The kind of day where all you can do is escape.