What an incredible reading I participated in at Open Secret bookstore in San Rafael, California this past Saturday night. Some of us published in the anthology The Healing Art of Writing, Volume One read to a super supportive audience. David Watts, one of the editors as well as a contributor, introduced the event, making everyone feel warmly welcomed. The book is beautiful and can be ordered online from the University of California Press, UC Press.
Here’s the description of the book from the back cover: “The pieces in The Healing Art of Writing: Volume One originated at the conference of this name that brought together caregivers and patients who share a passion for writing about the mysterious forces of illness and recovery. A belief shared among all contributors is that being cured of a disease is not the same as being healed, and that writing poetry and prose brings us to a place of healing. Our subject is the body, our medical experiences widely diverse, our goal to express through literature what happens when a physical or mental anguish disrupts our lives.”
I read a small section from the published excerpt of my memoir manuscript, The Autobiography of a Sea Creature. What a thrill to share my work with such loving listeners. Afterward, wonderful people spoke with me about what my story meant to them. One was a neonatologist who offered compassion and understanding about what I must have gone through as an infant. His words meant so much to me and in this conversation, I healed a little more from the early trauma. I asked him whether the neonatologists of today attend to babies’ pain and he assured me they do. Babies have a pain score, he told me, and these numbers are not only attended to constantly by the medical staff but are available to the family at all times. This information was reassuring.
A videographer from the University of California San Francisco Medical Center came up to me afterward saying, thank goodness medicine has changed and that the doctors he meets at UCSF treat patients as human beings. They would never talk to their patients the way that the surgeon spoke to my mother after my surgery, he said. I was glad to hear his words. This supportive conversation was healing as well.
Finally, I had the most amazing conversation with two women who are my sister survivors in so many ways. I don’t have permission to share their stories, but suffice it to say that our talk in the hour after the reading helped me emerge from my isolation as a survivor of infant surgery without anesthesia and feel part of a greater community of people trying to come to terms with their own early medical experiences or those of family members. Many of us are still unraveling the meaning of these events in our lives. Writing has brought us together and for this, I am grateful. Truly, writing is a healing art.