Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Telling the Tale

A couple of months ago someone asked me about my story. I proceeded to describe the series of events that led to medical school and, in retrospect, my response reminds me of an alcoholic I worked with in treatment. Whenever I asked about his drinking, he recounted his tale as though he was speaking at an AA meeting. He'd told his story so often, he didn't know how to think about it in any other way.

We all do that to a certain extent, I suppose. It's like a verbal shorthand that allows us to get at the heart of the matter and avoid what we fear are the boring details. While it serves us well at cocktail parties, it really doesn't reveal our interior process and I think that's what this person was really asking me about.

I honestly think it came down to yearning. There was something in me that yearned for a life I'd never had. Call it what you will, desire, ambition, the grace of God -- all I know is, I felt pursued by something that refused to show any mercy. My efforts to offer it a deal were ignored. Logic and common sense were useless. You almost have to have been there yourself to really imagine what I'm describing.

It was like wandering through a desert and encountering someone who offers you a drink of cool water. You're not certain if they're a mirage -- you've seen those before and don't want to be disappointed again, but the water looks so good and you're so thirsty. Finally, desire overpowers uncertainty and you reach out your hand. It's not about courage or the willingness to take a risk so much as it is surrender. And, to your amazement, the act of surrender is the truest experience of victory you've ever known. That's what it was like, that's my story.

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