Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: victoria sweet

God’s Hotel: New Read

I’m reading God’s Hotel by Victoria Sweet for one of those clubs I told you about yesterday and I’m already halfway through it. I started it now, even though the meeting isn’t for nearly three weeks, thinking it was going to be boring and I wanted enough time to slog through.

And now I can’t put it down. Wow. It’s like a memoir mixed with history and current events. So far, her story is filled with some of the most beautiful AND tear-jerking scenes that I’ve ever read; real scenes, too, which makes them all the more painful.

I also feel like the author is pretty fair. The book doesn’t seem politically motivated or too one-sided. It describes problems she’s experienced as the healthcare system in the US has evolved over her career without making it sound like it’s all easily fixable. “If we only did X, then everyone would live forever in a happy state of bliss!”

I’m enjoying the read immensely.

I posted these two quotes to my Instagram this morning, not that anyone has seen them. Can you feel the sad? Sometimes that place makes me feel more like a misfit than I ever did in high school, which is saying A LOT.

god's hotel

“…I learned that medicine had once had a name for this, this something present in the living body bout was missing from the corpse.
Spiritus was the breath, the regular, rhythmic breathing of the love body that is so shockingly absent from the dead.
Anima is the invisible force that animates the body, that moves it, not only willfully but also unconsciously- all those little movements that the living body makes all the time.”

This caught my breath because I was there the day my grandmother died. (I’m not using a euphemism. She died, end of line.) And I was there the day after, just in time to sit with her body and say goodbye. It was an amazing experience; one I wish everyone could have.

There is nothing like it in this world.

The last time I saw her, she was in a hospice bed in her living room, unconscious but alive, filled with “spiritus” and “anima.” Even though she could not respond to our attentions, she was there, probably listening and wondering why she could not move her body or give us the “look” for our playful rudeness to each other. She had pancreatic cancer and was in so much pain. I squeezed her warm hand and told her I loved her very much, that we would be ok if she wanted to go, and that we’d take care of grandpa and each other.

Early the next morning, my mom called to tell me she had died, and I headed over to be with her and grandpa. Grandma was still in her bed, just as I had left her. On the way over I was afraid to see her, wondering how I would feel. We were so close all my life. But when I sat on the bed next to her, everything was different. My grandma’s spirit had left her body behind and there was nothing to do but get rid of it.

So strange to feel nothing holding the hand of a body that no longer held the woman I loved so much. Wherever she is, I know she heard me the day before and there was nothing else I needed to say to this…corpse. The ancients knew this. Why have we lost the knowledge?

And then there was this:

god's hotel

“Palimpsest seemed to be a perfect way of describing what I was beginning to learn at Laguna Honda: That underneath our scientific modern medicine was an earlier way of understanding the body – erased, to be sure, just a faint shadow of our consciousness, but active in our thoughts and desires, nonetheless.”

Palimpsestwriting material (such as a parchment or tablet) used one or more times after earlier writing has been erased

Humanity lived on this planet for thousands of years before modern science. We had ways of staying alive as best we could, things that did work and things that didn’t. Some of those things simply made us feel better about living and dying. Why do we believe we can just throw all that information out and rely on only the modern science of numbers, tests, and forms? Do we really believe that humanity lived in utter darkness, fumbling around, a miracle of survival, until a mere hundred or so years ago?

Like I said, I’m very much enjoying God’s Hotel by Victoria Sweet, and I never would have heard of it if it weren’t for this new book club that I am GOING to GO to, whether my anxiety wants to or not. Have you heard of it? Read it? Have any thoughts you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Something Crazy, Hold on to Your Potatoes

My dear, dear reader, I have done something crazy. You may want to sit down while you read this. Oh, wait, most people ARE sitting down while they read. At least, I hope they are. Maybe you’re one of those, “I’ll read on my phone while I walk” people. What? Why?! Explain yourself!

Never mind that. Here comes the news.

I have joined an in-person book club.

I know! I warned you it would be crazy!

And guess what? It’s local, like right here in my own town kind of local. And I’m going. I have the book and I’m reading it, now all I have to do is summon (that world does not look right at all) up all the courage I have and actually get in my truck, drive over there, walk in the door, and introduce myself.

“All I have to do…” Ug…my heart races and I feel sick just writing that. But I’m going to do it!

There are lots of reasons not to join a book club. First of all, there are people there. And second, they may be reading books that mean absolutely nothing to me. And then…did I mention people?

But, you guys, I need to get out and meet new people. I’ve gotten out of practice and THAT’S why it seems so complicated. What better way than at a book club? Nothing can go wrong, not really. And I’m not bound to keep going for any reason. The worst can only be showing up and feeling a bit awkward for an hour or so. I can handle this. I’ve been awkward all my life!

Just writing that made me think of something I could use to get through this first encounter with new people. During my meditation practice, I’ve been learning to simply BE in my feelings, allow them to hang out even if they are ugly, and not react to them. What if I did that at the meeting?

Instead of working myself up these next few weeks, worrying about who they might be, what they might say, or whether or not I’ll make a fool out of myself, I’ll just read the book. And that day, when I’m supposed to be getting my stuff together and driving over there, I’ll simply do that.

I’ll be nervous about getting there on time and not getting lost. I’ll feel sick about it and not be able to eat dinner before I go. But that’s ok. That’s only ancient instincts reminding me that new people, new situations, may be dangerous. This is not dangerous, so I’ll calm myself by taking deep breaths and giving myself a hug, maybe bring a nice, iced lemonade with a shot of tequila hidden in it.

Want to know what my other biggest fear is? My mouth running out of control.

When I’m nervous, I fill any pause with incessant chatter, and sometimes it’s not pleasant. It’s like I’m two people, the person making noise and the person in my head saying, “Shut up! Oh, my…why must you open your mouth?! Wow, that’s just great. They are never going to invite you again.” Which only makes me more nervous and then more talkative.

I’m wondering how I can solve this problem. How do I find a way to be ok with some pauses in the conversation? How do I relax and think, instead of filling up space with anything that comes to mind? I really don’t know. Tequila probably doesn’t help.

Wait…there’s more to this book club thing. You’re going to laugh.

I’ve joined two of them. Yep. I heard that Meet-Up was a good place to find groups, so I joined it…again (I have run away from it before) and started looking around. I found several that meet online, but virtual people will not help me get back into the swing of making friends, so I kept looking.

something crazy
I have a new book journal too!

One that I settled on is local, like right here in River City kind of local. And the books they’ve read over the past year are ones that I would read. One book is actually sitting on my TBR shelf! The book I’m reading for that group is God’s Hotel: A doctor, a hospital, and a pilgrimage to the heart of medicine by Victoria Sweet.

The other group is a little more outside my comfort zone. It’s a little farther away and it’s only for women. You know how I feel about women, right? That’s a whole other story. A sad one. A “Why do I not fit in!” kind of story. But it’s time to face my fears and get out there. Besides, they are reading an awesome little book called The Game of Life and How to Play It by Florence Scovel Shinn, a self-help book written by a woman and published in 1925. If a self-help book is still in print 100 years later, it has to mean something.

The best part, the part that says these women might be fun? They’re meeting at The Yard for drinks while we chat about the book. Drinks AND books? Yes, please!

The book club reads mean that I’ve had to put aside How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler to read other books. How funny is that?! I haven’t completely abandoned it. That would be so cruel. I’m reading it for about a half an hour in the morning each day, like an appetizer. The first chapters have been depressing, talking about changes in the education system and how it had been affecting college students and university professors.

It was written in 1940, so we can see where those changes have gotten us, but then again everything changes and it’s not the end of the world. Reading The Opening of the American Mind by Lawrence W. Levine softened my stance quite a bit. But that was written in the 90’s in response to the same changes that Adler is complaining about, so things have kept changing for sure and we all see the negative effects that Adler was worrying about.

I’m hoping he gets to the part that tells me how to read better soon. I love to read, but I find myself forgetting most of it and I’d love to be able to connect the dots between books more often, which is why I picked up the book in the first place.

And here I am, over one thousand words later, on a day in a month that I said I wouldn’t post. It looks like over the last four months I’ve created a habit that I don’t want to break. I think what I’ll do this month is keep it up, but instead of making sure I write and post every single day just to get that dopamine hit when I see this:

I’ll not make myself (more) nuts trying to create and post on days when I need to be out of the house at 7am.

So, you WILL hear from me in May after all! Aren’t you excited?! I am. I like sharing my thoughts here, what I’m reading and thinking, what I’m seeing and experiencing. I hope you enjoy reading it.

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