Excerpts from a conversation I had with a brilliant new friend:
“I used to get anxious a lot about patients dying and not knowing what to do in any given situation. but actually, it’s rare to be someone that knows everything, and it’s comforting to know even your seniors can be fallible too. Nihilism/ fatalism to some degree helps as well; though you never want bad things to happen to your patients.
Some say our own worst enemy is ourselves; but that demon is fuelled moreso by external commentary. Still, external commentary can only ever affect you by proxy, since ultimately it’s only ourselves that determine the gravity of our own psychology.”
Forgive yourself for the things you did not know before you learnt them.
I was having a conversation with someone the other day pertaining to politics and the role of religion in shaping one’s political opinion. I wondered aloud whether our differing theological views could contribute to any strife we might have in future, to which he replied “I don’t think so – I haven’t really seen it (Christianity) manifest in you”. Hearing that was like a slap to my face, after all the worst thing you could hear as a Christian is that you aren’t very Christ-like.
It took me a few minutes to process what he had meant by that, and I realised that to me, the manifestation of Christianity is love and patience and altruism learnt from being unconditionally loved by God. But what he had meant by that statement was that I was open-minded, tolerant of views different to my own and capable of reasonable debate. And it really saddened me to see what he thought Christianity was. Ignoring the sign-touting, hate-spewing extremists that plague every religion (after all, assholes will always exist regardless of what group you belong to), I think that there is a general defensiveness to modern day Christians. I think it is a brilliant thing that there is greater discussion, awareness and acceptance of more left-wing or radical ideas, even if I do not agree with them all. But I can see how this may feel threatening to the church. However, I don’t think being defensive will help anyone better understand Christ.
I don’t think it is our right to be offended when people reject Jesus. I often remind myself that a Muslim or a Hindu may believe in their faith as deeply as I do in mine. So who am I to tell them that they are wrong? I certainly wouldn’t appreciate them telling me what to believe in. I think it is important to bring people to Christ, but I think it is most important to do that through our actions; by quietly loving people, and being forgiving and gracious. I have a long way to go to become the kind of person I would like to be. But frankly, I think God doesn’t need defending to other people, I believe that the bible is the truth – my truth – and that God is perfect, and in His perfection, there is no need to defend or explain His word. We do not need to defend God against people, but we should represent him to people. Defensiveness stems from fear, not faith, and as Christians I think the only defensive front we need to take is to defend ourselves to God: to be able to justify our decisions and actions, and how we treat others and deal with situations in our lifetime. As John 3:17 says, “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
If there is order to this structured chaos it lies only in cathartic release.
I have been working 11 hours a day – and 3 weekends in a row. Next week I go on to emergency/ after-hours whereby I am expected to be on the floor from 10pm – 8am within the small animal hospital, or 4pm – 8am if I am on an equine shift. To say I am exhausted is an understatement. I have been fore-going sleep in order to maintain my social life as much as I am able. Last friday night some friends from church and I handed out dinner to the homeless on the streets then caught up over ice cream. And despite having to work in the morning over the weekend, I spent my afternoons reading at the beach and having wine and cheese and learning about sailing from some new friends. I am absolutely exhausted, and I probably look just as terrible. But things will be ok – I will take them as they come.
I haven’t really had time to read for leisure very much, or to write. So here are some sad lines from literature that touched my heart – even though I am not particularly sad at the moment. I think that whilst sadness shouldn’t be romanticised and placed on a pedestal, it is something that must be acknowledged and embraced. There are few emotions that we will feel as often, as deeply or as tangibly in this life, so surely learning to embrace it like an old friend would make our journey on this little blue dot just that much more meaningful.
“Tonight I can write the saddest lines. I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.”
– Pablo Neruda
“She vanished without a trace, swept away by the flow of time and it’s flood of people”
– Haruki Murakami
“It’s strange. I felt less lonely when I didn’t know you.”
– Jean Paul Sartre
“Time was passing like a hand waving from a train I wanted to be on. I hope you never have to think about anything as much as I think about you.”
– Jonathan Safran Foer
“We’re each of us alone, to be sure. What can you do but hold your hand out in the dark?”
– Ursula K. Le Guin
“Your only problem, perhaps, is that you scream without letting yourself cry.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche
“I didn’t leave because I stopped loving you, I left because the longer I stayed the less I loved myself.” – Rupi Kaur
“I hid my deepest feelings so well I forgot where I placed them.” – Amy Tan
People often say that the saddest word is “almost”: the notion of things that might have been; of opportunities missed and words unsaid: of regret. But there are so many ways in which “almost” is happy: “He almost did not survive the night”, “I almost decided not to go to the party where I met you”, “I almost lost the courage to call.”
I therefore think the saddest phrase is “It should have been you”. It is heartbreaking no matter which context I put it in. Whether walking down the aisle with the wrong man, or a mother grieving the loss of the son she cared more for.
Sunrises are most bathed in glory
When taken in with another hand in yours
But my dear the sun will still tomorrow rise
Even if watched by only one set of eyes
I’ve spent the past couple of weeks working at a wildlife hospital. It was a fairly long drive to make, but everyday I would park my car amongst the trees and step out to the faint smell of bushfire in the air, and that made it all worthwhile. This was a not-for-profit wildlife rehabilitation center that was run entirely by volunteers. I would admit any injured wildlife that was brought in, assess them and treat them to the best of my abilities, and refer to a private veterinary hospital if it was a case I could not handle, or if the patient required further diagnostic work-up (radiographs etc), or surgery. As there was no on-site vet, the onus of making decisions regarding treatment plans and euthanasia considerations often fell on me. This was both good and bad because it forced me to be more decisive and to have more confidence in the clinical decisions I made, but also meant a lot of sleepless nights worrying about possible misdiagnoses, and that I wasn’t really learning as much as I could have because there would be no senior vet there to correct me if I were wrong. I spent some days in the lab looking at faecal samples with a microbiologist, and others rushing around the hospital administering treatments and euthanising patients with very poor prognoses. All in all I think I learnt a fair bit, and feel like I have made a minor but practical contribution towards wildlife and conservation. It was also really good for me mentally, I think, to take a step back from my usual high-stress environment and re-connect with the side of medicine that I love.
I’ve been spending all my free time (and also time I probably could not afford) hiking, camping, star gazing and climbing over the past few weeks. I have learnt to not let a lack of company stop me from doing the things I love, and to care less about what people might think of me – because chances are they probably don’t think of me at all. I’ve been taking myself out for hikes and stopping my car to watch beautiful sunsets. I’ve been pushing my comfort zones and forcing myself into situations that require me to socialise with new people. And I think I am getting better at it – or getting better at not hating it. It is back to the daily grind of rotations and exams and I am as behind on sleep as I am with my studies. My muscles are sore, my finger tips are bleeding, my shoes are caked with dirt but my heart is a bit more full than it was before.