Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A man dies in my presence

Speaking to you from the airport in Frankfurt, more than 24 hours after my trip home from Russia began. We took off from St. Petersburg only to turn around for a man with a heart attack. I fear his outcome was not good, since they stopped the CPR. It was a strange experience to sit quite close to where they were working on him with CPR, thank goodness there was a doctor on the flight. I always think about volunteering in case there isn't a doctor available. Memo to everyone: refresh your CPR skills. This could be you.

I have seen many people die in my presence, which is not so common outside a war zone. Except for my grandmother they have all been children. It is an opportunity for prayer, urgent energy, and reflection on the meaning of life and death. What is it which animates this human flesh?

And I think there is something more, beyond what we know here. As a Christian I have certain beliefs about the afterlife, but here is an idea for everyone: There is conservation of matter, conservation of energy, why wouldn't there be conservation of the life force?

Realizing how precious life is, keeps me from quitting time after time. [See below post for me deciding I've had enough, yet again.] NZexpat has such a good quote about pushing back against the forces of darkness:

"I hope the miracles of what you are doing can filter through the curtain of obtuseness, obstruction, and ignorant power."
---------NZexpat of firedoglake

This is deeply healing for me. What are we fighting? Stupidity, selfishness, refusal to see beyond one's own world...yet I am also sympathetic to those things. Every day it is a struggle to think beyond my own mental illness.

To reach out and help other people in an unusual way makes as much sense as hiding at home under a blanket---very appealing many days, especially during my seasonal winter depression. So if it's hard to get thru a normal day, and only a little bit harder to work at a children's hospital in Russia, why not go for it?


egregious said...

Gotta catch a plane.

NZexpat, comment for you below.

Everybody else:

What's on your mind?

Anonymous said...

Stopping by to say hi. I admire you for what you do! I was watching something on CSPAN about all the Russian journalists who have been assassinated. Truly courageous people. And what you are doing is so courageous - I would never have the emotional strength. But I image
ine knowing you are doing something worthwhile is sustaining.

I have always been fascinated by Russia - trying to understand their history, which is quite bloodly - that's the hardest part for me to understand. And the Stalin years. And Stalin. I was fascinated by him for a time, I dont' mean to sound morbid, I just mean, I always wondered what his diagnosis would be, and how does one human being amass so much power and cause so much destruction and suffering over so many years, actually get away with it, and still be loved by many people although naturally hated by many, as well.


Suzanne said...

hey eg

winging your way back? i have to commend you for your use of skills getting through difficult times. sometimes, the hardest part is figuring out that this is in fact a time that skills use is needed.

i also think that your job, helping the babies, is important to helping you maintain balance.

hoping all is well in your hemispere (where ever that may be)


GrandmaJ said...

Welcome egregious. Every single child you save is worth the effort. It is a gift to be able to achieve such results. Not all make it of course, but those that do will live and be a part of life.

I was told once "I love you - pass it on." One doesn't love someone or something simply in order to be loved back. It helps, don't get me wrong, but the pure act of lovely is the best gift of all.

So, egregious, you gave your all to those children, and the thanks for your efforts exist in your heart. Because of the lives that continue because of YOU.

Good work. I admire you. Even in the more 'turbulent' moments.

As for me, I did not sleep last night. It is becoming more and more difficult to rid my mind of the endless tapes of 'my fault', 'may fault.' Next month I will visit a dear friend in Texas for a month.

NZ Expat said...

egregious...thanks for the encouraging words. It is always hard to know when help is out of order, when it is the help that is needed. To know the difference between what must be accepted and what can be changed...that is the rub, isn't it?

I spent some time talking once with David Henry Feldman (I think that is his name) who has done research on extraordinary geniuses. His point was that we never know when someone's eccentric interest may be keeping alive some key needed for the future, but at this time it appears to be silly and futile.

I think, likewise, that what looks silly and futile to some (or even downright crazy) may be the key, the pathway that leads all of us out of this mess. For sure, the ordinary ways of doing and perceiving haven't done much to rescue us. So yes, I continue to tend my daughter from afar, nursing via email through her long loneliness. It has now been over a year since I have seen her; I should see her by May 1, though.

And Grandma J, thank you for reminding me that love is to be passed on, not just passed back. All those people in the world who have never tasted its richness are still waiting at empty tables for their serving of love.

(Sorry I'm long winded tonight, but there it is.) I was thinking about a student who kept saying "I can't write, I can't write." I said, "Who told you that? You weren't born thinking that. Someone must have told you that." She thought a bit and then the face of a grade school teacher came to her. She knew who had given her the message and then she decided that person wasn't going to be the authority on her talents for the rest of her life.

So, who told you you were at fault or to blame? You weren't born being at fault. Someone found it easier to give you that message than to assume his or her own responsibilities. And then when times go bad, the old tapes start playing, don't they? Have you ever just asked the tapes whose voice it is, and why? I'm not saying that we are all blameless, innocent and perfect. But none of us is unworthy of graceful forgiveness. We all screw up. We were made to screw up some of the time. If we didn't, how would we ever learn and grow? But we were also created as a fragment of a divine image and that is the flame it is wonderful to fan.

So, my wish for both egregious and Grandma J is to travel in grace and love, passing it on and on and on.

egregious said...

NZexpat: Amen.

GrandmaJ: We are only human, destined to fail. I often ask God why he made us so weak. Actually the word I use is 'stupid.' Look for forgiveness from God and from your own heart. You've done your best, that's all anyone can ask.

GrandmaJ said...

thank you NZ expat and egregious. Yah, I got those tapes of 'it is your fault' very young. I was an only child born to older parents and both were VERY career orientated.

It was many MANY years later I came to understand my mother's pursuit of career over everything else, including loving her daughter. Her last years were spent living with me and I came to understand better her life, and her fears. I am glad I had a chance to more clearly see my mother before she passed away.

However, the tapes I learned still play when I am stressed -- and I am very stressed at the moment. The difference is I try to react in a different way to them and actually know better now. But still...

kristinejoy said...

I just wanted to drop by here a say thank you for your courage. You have helped me make sense of my own struggles for happiness and for purpose. So, today was the first step I took to face my diagnosis and get treatment. It was as hard as writing this post, but it hopefully is a start. I've purged myself of most of my epic self-destruction, but lost my drive and purpose in the process. I've just recently come to the conclusion that it is all me, the highs and the lows, I'm the same person and I need to integrate rather than hiding from the trail of spectacular failures that make me doubt my value in this world.

You touch people you don't even know. You've shown me you don't have to run away from those big ideas that so motivate just because you doubt yourself. Doesn't mean that it's easy (and I know it will never, ever be easy and that gives me some comfort believe it or not), but hell, hard I can do. It's doing nothing that has been killing my soul.

Anonymous said...

Hello, again. Have not had time to read your interesting posts. I should have mentioned that in my previous blabber. Look forward to reading them to find out details of what you have been up to before, during and after your trip.


Anonymous said...

I have a canvas bag that has the following saying on the outside: "Masquerading as a normal person each day is exhausting."

I had to buy it. That is exactly how I feel at the end of each work day.

Have had many moments where I questioned my own sanity because I would say to myself, if most of these people I know are supposed to be sane, what does that make me?

So each day is a struggle to present a "normal" facade in order not to scare or baffle people. Have had so many failures in trying to survive in the every day world that I have had many moments of just being paralyzed with fear of doing something wrong, not understanding the deep nuances of what was expected of me by traditional society.

I always seem to be f'g up things whenever I enter a joyful state (mania?). So it seems "safer" to be unhappy. How screwed up is that? What a stupid way to think. But after so many screw-ups branding my brain and soul, it's a little like Pavlov's dog.

It would probably help if I had something fulfilling in my life, such as the wonderful work egregious does.

kristenjoy - been there/still there! I understand what you mean.


Anonymous said...

nzexpat: "His point was that we never know when someone's eccentric interest may be keeping alive some key needed for the future, but at this time it appears to be silly and futile.

I think, likewise, that what looks silly and futile to some (or even downright crazy) may be the key, the pathway that leads all of us out of this mess."

These are wise words. They remind me of Gandhi's saying, which really helped me to understand this and be less afraid: "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."


egregious said...

I am heartbroken and deeply touched by your comments here, kristinejoy, mandrake, nz.

If being open about my painful journey is helping others, [long pause with some tears] I feel it is worthwhile.

We see thru a dark glass/dimly. We feebly struggle, they in Glory shine. We will not know what it all means until we get to the other side at the end of our lives. In the meantime there is much pain. Our willingness to confront this pain and work with it and thru it is a measure of our humanity.

Thank you kind souls who give me such encouragement. You are saving lives in Russia, most directly. I can hardly stress that this time I nearly quit for real. The love and encouragement I get from people around the world truly makes a difference.

egregious said...


Been thinking about you.

How are things going for you?

Katherine said...

That bag is brilliant. ("Masquerading as a normal person each day is exhausting") Mandrake, where oh where did you get it?

I read an interesting paper recently that talked about how we are trying to fix ourselves individually, to fit into this society. And it's exhausting. And it asked us why aren't we looking at that in the context of society being broken? We know society has its problems (homelessness, poverty, crime, etc), but I don't think we always connect what-we-perceive-to-be-individual problems (which "happen" to be rampant) like depression and feeling so out of place and whatnot, with a broken society. Maybe we need to work on something broader instead of only ourselves. I don't mean at all that we don't need to work towards better worlds for ourselves, towards being healthier. But it does present an interesting issue when we have things like depression (etc) at almost epidemic rates -- what does that say about our society?

Katherine said...

"This is deeply healing for me. What are we fighting? Stupidity, selfishness, refusal to see beyond one's own world...yet I am also sympathetic to those things. Every day it is a struggle to think beyond my own mental illness."

I think it's an interesting combination of being frustrated with the selfishness (=refusal to see beyond one's own world and act accordingly) of the world at large, and some similar sentiments of ourselves. I think the latter makes me more sympathetic in my work with the former, both in my work and also in my daily life.

egregious said...


Good to hear your voice. Hope you'll share your wisdom with us again.

Something so familiar in what you are saying :)