Life

Cinderella Story

Most of my friends believe that my favorite movie is Star Wars…all of them. Well, they are wrong. It is Cinderella, the version released by Disney in 1950. This is the only movie which I’ve watched hundreds of times and still cry at the same scenes. Yes, I just admitted this on the Internet. Disney’s Cinderella is deceptively simple. Looking at it as a kid, it was a simple fairy tale with the hero triumphant. As a teenage girl, I saw the story of the girl getting the guy. However, as an adult it became a different story. Below is what I consider the most emotional scene of the movie. It is not because we think Cinderella has lost the chance to go to the ball, meet the prince and change her circumstances.
All of this may have been what the writers wanted, yet there is more here.
Cinderella in the Garden

Leaning over a cement bench, she sobs the following through bitter and painful tears:
“It’s just no use…I can’t believe, not anymore…there’s nothing left to believe in…”

I imagine this is not the first time she has come to this garden in tears or pain. If you pay attention to the beginning of the movie, this is the same garden she and her father are shown in when he was alive. She may come here even when her stepmother and step sisters are asleep to feel a connection to her deceased father. What is clear is that this moment was her breaking point. Although she may not have been perfect, Cinderella is shown to be rational and reasonable up to this point. She has maintained her composure and dignity even in the face of humiliation and numerous daily set backs. Yet, it is the selfish, spiteful, and bitter tearing of her dress that finally breaks her down.
Does not life feel this way at times?
Of course many of us realize that tearing her dress is representative of all her hopes, dreams, goals, and beliefs being shattered and broken. How many of us have come to a breaking point when our world seems to come crashing around us? You, the person who has been optimistic and encouraging others, smiling through your own pain could not bear another set back. Yet, that set back came. The moment of crisis and the day of despair when what took years to build was stripped away in an instant were too much on your plate. In our darkest moments, how easy it is to say as Cinderella “There’s nothing left to believe in…”
I know it may be easier to quote James 1:2-3 than to believe it or to hear I Peter 1:5-9 than to take it to heart when in the middle of distressing circumstances. I know because darkness surrounds us all like a fog and the fog can be as thick as velvet. And the season can last longer than we would like leading us to pleading with the Father for the veil to lift from our life. Yet it is imperative and most urgent that you and I see beyond our present. Even as the Fairy Godmother said: “If you had lost all your faith, I could not be here. And here I am.” Your faith in its most honorable form is what God is after. He uses what we have, our heart, and our circumstances to get us where He needs us. The trying of your faith and the set backs, heart ache, heart-break, and pain on this side of life are the very things that can polish and perfect you, forcing you to stand out to our Prince of Peace.

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The Language of Life

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I was once a decent musician. I played the piano and two types of saxophones. Okay, if you can play one type of saxophone, the key layout is the same…
My first college major was music. I wrote sheet music and helped local musicians write hooks. Yet, I eventually found my way to the biology department. Life became more science than music.
When I took my first music class, our teacher introduced music as a language. He called it the universal language. Just as years of Spanish allowed me to understand spoken and written expression, years of musical training allowed me to read and write in the language of music. Interestingly, just as my infrequent use of Spanish now limits my current understanding, so has gone the way of music. I began reading old sheet music for the piano and felt like a beginner again.
Then I thought about something: maybe music is not the universal language. Not everyone can read it and most people cannot understand it’s complexities. What of math, then? Music is a beautifully mathematical language. Could it not be that math is the universal language that binds us after all? Yet, there are many great musicians born blind and have never seen a math equation.
And there it is.
Life.
To live and experience all the sorrows and pains, joys and laughter under the sun binds humanity across all languages. It is expressed in the mathematical harmony of music we use as the soundtrack to our lives. Pain is not limited to ethnicity, country, or color. Joy is not preserved for American speakers of English. The same hormones are released in the stress response in our bodies when you and I see the hypothetical whatever that scares you/stresses you most. Life, lived full and wide, is not without pain and heartache. Pain is not limited to physical loss of another human or tangible material thing. Yet, this full life experience and range of emotional response we have is what knits humanity together as one. My pain may never be worn on my sleeve or written on my face, yet I can relate that emotion to the place that has caused you pain. The same goes for those times of great joy. In this, it is human emotion that is the universal language. You need not understand Spanish to interpret laughter. You do not have to read music to hear the song of tears. You only need an open heart.

The picture is one of the exercises from The Saxophonist’s Workbook by Larry Teal – as seen through my glasses.

Human Medicine

Still not done with my paper, I calculated how late I would be that afternoon. I stood in the hallway waiting for Dr. B to finish up an appointment. I checked the time and logged my hours before going to the triage room to chat with the nurses about the weekend ahead and random happenings. Before I could walk in, a little girl of about three or four walked out the rest room ahead of me. She was probably the only preschooler I have seen “sa-shay” instead of walk. She had her hands on her hips and looked back at her mom as if to say ‘hurry up!’ She was incredibly bubbly and her personality was brighter than her coordinated spring outfit, painted orange toenails and jelly sandals. Her mom finally came behind her as they went back into the open exam room. As Dr. B and I made our way to other patients, I wondered if that little bubbly preschooler would be getting shots. I hoped she wouldn’t cry.
We finally made our way to the bubbly preschooler. Dr. B introduced me and I said hello, waved at the mother and then the little girl. This little girl not only smiled, but after finally seeing through her dark brown curls, I realized even her eyelids creased when she smiled. I wondered as I usually do with the younger kids “Where will they be in ten or twenty years?” I always hope that the happy ones would remain so.
As the mother spoke quietly with Dr. B about paper work, the little girl began playing hide-and-seek. Okay, more like peek-a-boo…I could still see her but she covered her eyes so I guess I disappeared…? I usually try to pay attention to catch any information about the history before Dr. B tells me the diagnosis. My little distraction, however, made sure I was oblivious until Dr. B turned to me.
“Little E has an inoperable tumor on her brainstem. She’s here for clearance to get an MRI.” Dr. B said.
“…oh…” I murmured.
“She has been getting treatment and we need to know if it is working. From what I can tell, she has a lot more energy than before treatments began.” Dr. B said, picking up Little E and placing her on the exam table.
“Yes, she looks great!” I said. What a relief. This little girl is getting treatment. She just needs a follow-up to be sure everything is going well.
Dr. B examined her and cleared her chart for the MRI. No shots, no tears. Actually, anytime you look at this little girl, she smiles. Genuinely.
Her mother, who was just a bit more subdued than she, thanked Dr. B as I put her paperwork together. They went toward checkout and Dr. B and I went back to her office past the mural of children playing happily and caring for each other on the wall.
I walked in behind Dr. B and pulled my notes from my front pocket. I wanted to ask her more about the pathophysiology of the glioma.
“The glioma,” she began, “is in the brainstem, near the nucleus of the sixth cranial nerve. Our first clue when she presented were her eyes. When I first saw her, she was doing quite poorly. But look at her. She is in treatment and doing well.”
I thought about her ‘peek-and-seek’ play and agreed. “I see. She has so much personality, too. She’s such a pleasant kid.”
Dr. B sat at her desk, put her tablet down and turned back to me. “I wanted to let you know she is not expected to live beyond the end of the year.”
No.
My heart fell to my stomach, even if only metaphorically.
Not this girl. Not this bubbly, beautiful spirit. Not this three-year-old with a lifetime of giving smiles, laughter, and joy. No, this girl just hid her face from me and thought I disappeared. Not this beautiful, bright soul that still has so much to give this dark, cloudy world.
Not her.
I sat back, surprised at the stinging feeling of salty tears falling into the dry skin across my cheeks. I thought about why I became interested in human medicine. I thought about how depressed I was when I received a rejection and then two wait lists from medical school three years ago. I thought about how much of my life I had thought I would only be happy if I could get to this one point. Then I realized I was silently crying. With Dr. B’s back to me, I reached for a tissue at the edge of her desk. As I began wiping the tears before she could notice, she said, with her back still to me, “It’s okay. I’d worry more if that didn’t make you cry.”

Changes

For my thirtieth birthday, I cleaned out my journal drawer. Well, it is not really a drawer, it’s a cabinet under my writing desk. Okay, I digress. In cleaning out this cabinet, I became distracted by reading a few of these entries. I have kept a journal since I was seven, so needless to say it was a long distraction. Well, I came across the following note I wrote at seventeen. I think that seventeen-year-old was a psychic because they were words that spoke to this thirty-year-old. Below are a few of those words verbatim:

…Life hands us things that are gonna change us forever. Life can change our perspective on things for life’s challenges ahead. Life can be cruel, but it can cause us to take a look at ourselves differently. Change is something that is always gonna be around us and is always going to happen. But, I think and I have grown to realize that things happen for a reason. God puts things in your life to make you think and for change to come about inside you. If it were not for the changes in life, we would not grow.

No Time to Waste

“Harry, am I gonna die?” Dorothy

“I’m afraid so.” Dr. Weston

“You really think so?” Dorothy

“Sooner or later, I guarantee it!” Dr. Weston

[from The Golden Girls: Episode 104 “Sick and Tired: Part 2”]

We have this illusion of infinite youth. Life freezes at twenty-five and never moves forward. I know this is true as I look at the choices we make and the advertisements on the covers of health and beauty magazines. Life both begins and ends in our twenties. Youth is forever and forever is youth.

You have plenty of time to get it all right.

Hold on, just for one night.

You have plenty of time, stay for a while.

If only, if only, just for now.

No. You do not have plenty of time. You do not have forever. I wish I could stop there, but it would not have the effective weight of a PSA to my generation. It is the reason death surprises us and we live as if it will never happen. It is the reason we worry and fret over relationships not meant for marriage. It is the reason we chased that guy or girl, only to realize they were a bad fit after the chase ended. It is the reason we wait to do the right thing, to apologize to those we’ve wronged, or act on the visions and gifts given to us. It is the reason we don’t always check on our parents. It is the reason we put off calling our family and friends. It is the reason we waited to give that compliment. It is the reason we hesitate to tell them of our love. It is the reason we never live the life which we’ve been called.

We always think there will be time later. What if later never came?

If your life ends tonight, what will you do? Have you been operating as if it will never end? (Luke 12:13-34)

It is easier to live as if life won’t end. It is nicer to think that we will have youth forever. It is safe to think we will never get sick.

So, what happens when you get sick in your youth? What are the thoughts when the “drip” is into young vessels? What could I say when I couldn’t make the words?

I realized that I don’t have time to waste. And neither do you.

Peace and Love,

-Kristina

Knowing Who You Can Take With You and When You Cannot Go With Them

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As we progress through life and the stages thereof, people will begin to weave into our story and we will inevitably weave into their story. Some of these will be people who stay until the end and others will truly only be in our lives for a short season. Too often we want to keep the people in our lives that were only meant for a short time. They usually forced us to grow in an area; some taught us to love deeply, some taught us to live outside ourselves and some showed us that life is not always kind. It is important to know one person from the other and when to let go.
Some of this has been said before and becomes cliché. However, what is usually not said to us is the opposite: you must also know when you must leave. This is not the vain “I have grown tired of this friendship/relationship” leaving. This is the loving way of allowing your friends and family to grow beyond where you are. To do this one truly must step outside of her wants and recognize when the other person is stretching beyond where they both are at the moment. It takes an honest self-awareness that many of us do not have in youth.
I mentioned that my two sisters are both leaving to go in different directions this fall. One of my sisters is moving to NYC and the other to DC. A few weeks ago, one of my sisters and I went out with a few friends. One of my friends pulled me aside as we were standing on the sidewalk outside the restaurant. He asked me why I had not considered going to New York with my sister. I dismissed him, as he is a native New Yorker and partial to the decision. He pressed the issue by giving valid reasons for the move and I began to think about it.
Why was I against going?
The more I thought about it, the more I began to realize that it was not for me to go with either of my sisters. It was my sister who dreamed of a job in New York, not I. It was my sister who was accepted to a graduate program in DC, not I.
Over the next week, my mother asked the same question and even insisted that she and my father would feel better if I went with my sister to New York or at least accompanied my other sister to DC. At this point I began to understand the hesitation I felt.
These are not my moves and they are not my paths. These are not the places I can go. I have to let them go alone. I have to let them run their races.
Being the oldest, in all that my sisters do I support them. However, their goals are not my goals, their dreams are not my dreams and most importantly, their paths are not my path.
From high school through college I have met some great and wonderful people. But many of these people have moved beyond where we first met. On the other hand, I have moved beyond where we first met. We may talk occasionally, however the path set before us began to diverge. It is important to recognize when and where that path diverges in a relationship and understand that you may not be able to follow their path. The load we carry may exceed the limit of the road ahead of them, and we could cause harm to everyone as we try to cross the bridges on that road. We are called to run our race, not our brother’s or sister’s. So, lay aside every weight and run your race on your path. Don’t look around at others because their race is not yours. Keep your eyes fixed on your goal and trust that God will give you what you need to finish the race, fight the battles, and jump over the rocks that line your path. We should never forget that sometimes the roads diverge, but if we were striving for a common goal of love, they will share common intersections. No, I may not be able to come with you. We each have a journey that is unique to us alone.