Wednesday, August 24, 2011

{Annmarie investigating the function of the epiglottis on the internet.}

My six-year-old is stubborn and inquisitive. She constantly bombards me with questions and doesn't stop until she gets a satisfying answer. When I'm feeling less patient, I tell her the answer to Life the Universe and Everything is forty-two and send her out to play.

But the questions persist.

I realize part of that is her age and part of it is imbedded in her DNA. When I was six (and twelve and twenty-eight) I wanted to know everything. My mother got so weary of the constant inquisition she bought me a set of world book encyclopedias. I read them cover to cover, earmarked my favorite parts and read them again. I even tried to pack the entire set off with me to college but they fell apart.

I've never outgrown that need for knowledge and doubt my daughter will either. I still want to know everything about everything. So I understand her deep hunger. She doesn't just want to know. She needs to know and can't be satisfied until she has an answer.

Lately, her obsession is human physiology. She want's to know how every system in the body works. Here are a few examples of her recent questions:

"Where's the esophogus and what does it do?"
"Do my kidney's only process drinks or soup too?"
"If my liver is a giant filter what happens to all the bad stuff it separates?"

Thank you Professor Gardner for forced memorization. Had you not forced me to peer inside a human cadaver my sophomore year in college I would have never been able to tell my daughter that the liver is basically a giant coffee filter.

Google helps with the answers I don't remember but it's just not the same as those old encyclopedias. There's just something powerful about holding the answer in your fingertips. We recently purchased a DK How it works book on the human body. It's the size of a coffee table. You should see Annmarie pack it around.

Anyway, while my little one was mulling through Circulation and Digestion. I'd been asking a few questions myself.

One of my physicians suggested cutting things out of my life to help me recover. So I'd been asking myself what can go. I love so many things. Right now I can't do them all. So I'd been trying to do a little selective amputation. What do I give up? Teaching? Writing? Cooking? Yoga?

They all bring me joy. So how do I choose which one to let go?

I'd been wrestling with this subject for a while and didn't feel like I was getting a satisfactory answer. In walked Annmarie with that giant book of the human body under her arm. I could see a question burning in her brain and I was so, so tempted to give her my standard Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy answer but she looked deeply troubled. I dropped onto my knees, so I could look her in the eye, and asked. "How can I help you my dear?"

She wrapped her fingers firmly around the book's binding. "There are so many parts of the body. And they all do important things, but which one is the MOST Important?"

I sat on my feet and pondered the question. Was it the heart? Brain? Lungs? Kidneys?

"They're all important?" I said. "You can't live without any of them. If you take one system away the whole body suffers."

I understand this concept because ONE SYSTEM in my body is out of order and it's impacting ALL of them. Each system of the body supports the others. They are all unique and important.

Well, isn't cutting pieces of my life away akin to cutting out organs? Yes, there are foreign cancers that invade and must be removed to preserve the whole. And sometimes there needs to be surgical adjustments to help organs better function. But how can I choose to eliminate entire parts of myself? They are all parts of my whole.

I don't think my physician meant for me to cut out parts of my life that nourish me. I think he meant that I cut out things that erode, cancerous burdens that seem urgent but are ultimately not important. Like the laundry! Or the ringing telephone! But instead I have tried to amputate parts of myself.

I gave up writing because I thought it was an all or nothing deal. Then I did the same thing with teaching. I've compartmentalized my life, cutting it into segments to make myself well. But these amputations have negatively impacted my health.

Writing pumps my heart and teaching fills my lungs. Gardening, yoga, music, and painting all serve a function. I cannot live my life without them. They are all necessary parts of my whole.


John Bradfield said...

Perfect epiphany.

In college, I read something by some famous author called Against Epiphanies, you're probably much more familiar with it than me. But I didn't agree with the concept then any more than I do now. Our life is meant to be a learning experience.

Doing what you love has healing powers—if not physical, then at least spiritual, mental, and emotional.

John Bradfield said...

Don't get me wrong. I think Baxter is pretty darn good, and I like some of his stuff. But I also like epiphanies. I think it's one way God speaks to us.