Recollections and cogitations by an ER physician, mingled with memoiria of her own abusive childhood and efforts to grow beyond its effects. Admittedly, I picked it up for the former, and might not have bitten if I had known how much there would be of the latter – the ultimate impact is more self-improvement of the yoga-incense-and-herbal-tea variety than medical drama, but on the other hand, what it really is turned out to be entirely appropriate, as it became available on my Kindle just before a medical emergency put me in an ambulance on the way to an ER myself, at the same time I’m experiencing acute withdrawal symptoms from a forty-year long day-job and pondering relocation for the next phase of life.
So, yeah, there is that. Change – real, beneficial change that replaces negatives with positives – comes most often when we admit the past is over, or no longer endurable, or however else we acknowledge that something is broken. And in that brokenness, if we are lucky and observant, we may glimpse the beauty of what could be. Different. Not necessarily easy. Not necessarily glamorous or lucrative or admirable to anyone but ourselves, but truer and more productive than keeping on with what we deep down know – if we would only admit it to ourselves – is simply not working. In Harper’s case, it is relationship with her family, her husband cum ex-husband, her subsequent boyfriend, the medical career for which she strove so long and hard only to find it deformed by economics and bureaucracy. For each of us it is different and yet the same. To find the path forward we must reach the cliff on our current path, stop, look around and discern a new way forward.
This is a generous book, empathic to all, even the assholes she shows in all their sphincterity. Generous even to the physically-abusive fathers and knife murdering psych. admission at her VA hospital stint. Not so generous to the medical establishment, VA administration, or the military mentality; but not without excellent reason either. It is clearly intended to provide hope and comfort to others, an offering of the author’s own pain and insight. A gift, to anyone ready to receive it.
Failure, Harper quotes Astro Teller of Google, isn’t making mistakes. Rather, failure is identifying that a course of action you have taken doesn’t work, but proceeding with it anyway. So break-down, let yourself fall apart if your current configuration is not resulting in a happy and productive life, then put yourself back together (with the best help you can find) and embark on a new and better life.
Not a bad message in these broken years we are currently enduring; a welcome gift from an admirable soul. Thank you, Ms. Harper.