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Poetry, Paradox, and the Human Spirit: Part 1

We humans are fragile, and incredibly strong. We can grab onto familiar yet flimsy habits oh-so easily, and leap almost simultaneously into the unknown spaces of adaptability and resilience as if we were superheroes. Perhaps nowhere does this play out more in daily life than when our health is compromised.

I am sitting in a room on the sixth floor of the University of Washington Medical Center. In his hospital bed next to me is my husband, sleeping. Two days ago he had a long-awaited shoulder replacement surgery, and between the anesthesia, shock of surgery, medications, the painful exertion of a 5x/day exercise regimen, and hardly any sleep, he is a shadow of his usual self. And...even as I witness his body/mind resistance to the pain, even as he utters his self-proclaimed weakness, his body is kicking into high healing mode.

As his caretaker, I've felt insufficient to the task this last week due to fatigue from an ill-timed, stubborn respiratory infection, the many preparations, and the actual traveling to arrive here. And...I'm finding a dormant strength that last surfaced ten years ago when my son broke his neck, my own body/mind kicking into high care mode.

Love keeps us going. As does sheer necessity and an innate urge to survive. Our human spirit comprised of compassion and kindness make us larger than our flimsy weaknesses. "Let go, let go, let go" is a powerful mantra when illness and infirmity knock on our door. We are never prepared nor is there ever a "good" time...and we all have and/or will hear that knocking. What Is vital to remember and embrace into our inner core is that we are all fragile and all superheroes. We are intertwined and interdependent. poet Mark Nepo writes in his poem "Eventually"—we grow and thrive because of it.


We stop trying

to carry all that we know

as if it will protect us.

If lucky, we are forced

to accept that under

what we think is ours

is the beginning

of what no one owns.

At last, we are

humbled to dip our face

in the same well.

It is the look of your

face and mine

lifting from that well

that frees me.


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