Everyone’s A Writer

The AlchemistNone of us had ever done this before; flown to a developing country with a yearning to help both our fellow-man and ourselves. The earthquake tsunami one-two punch had produced a paradigm shift for many and brought together this tiny band of medical experts…and me.

At the very first expedition meeting in New Delhi, held in a hotel room at the top of a spiral staircase, one of the topics of conversation was journaling;  we all had one.

Everyone was full of intentions to capture in writing the events which were to unfold over the next few weeks. It would be a routine exercise to recreate the happenings of the day and share them with friends and family back home; to deliver a fair and accurate description of our experiences so that these could not only be secure in our memories but safe from future confusion or dilution.

As the expedition went from a pre-conceived notion to harsh reality the journaling and “experience recreation” became an after-thought.  Of the ten of us not a single journal was ever opened for the purposes of writing or rehashing an experience. Of the ten of us barely a word was ever written. 

Our evenings were more in tune with compartmentalizing the day’s activities and allowing them only briefly to be summarized; verbally and out loud. After which we would descend into more shallow past-times; drinking, games, jokes, and stories of a more jovial nature.

If I had to describe our behavior, the phenomenon, it would be to relate it to the TV series M*A*S*H where every day a heartbreak took place and living the heartbreak once was enough, recreating it had little or no benefit.

Storing the memories deep; in a compartment of the mind that is dark and out of sight.

This was an unconscious yet unanimous decision betrayed by no-one.  At some appropriate time we knew they would be retrieved and processed however that time was not now…not even close to now.

To find out how this all came about; click Beckoned Skyward by an Earthquake.

To see more photos of India; click India – A Photo Journal

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42 thoughts on “Everyone’s A Writer

  1. Tim, I totally understand what you’ve said. Its so hard to put into words what you go through in tough times. That downtime is very necessary when coping with it and reflection comes later. Its incredible doing what you can to help others. Great post

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  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with everyone here. You are truly a special person to use your talents to help people in their time of need. God bless you.

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  3. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is solidify what you are witnessing and experiencing and putting it into words. Those jokes and games might have seemed selfish at the time but they were probably keeping you positive and stable, pushing forth the harsh reality! Great read 😀

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    1. As a natural goof I was kind of in my element but as you say, it helped a lot. No need to rehash everything at the end of the day. Thanks for reading.

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  4. Tim, I admire you taking on the job that you did. I would imagine that at the end of the day you needed the release M.A.S.H. style rather than rehashing and reliving the day’s events.

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  5. Sometimes there just are no words for what we have seen &/or experienced. My husband – a surgeon in Vietnam, a “Hawkeye” of sorts! – rarely discusses that time except to share or rehash a relatively painless memory like time off in Hong Kong or somesuch…The MASH analogy is perfect.

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  6. Tim, I think it is great for you and the others who went to help at such a terrible time. Recording the hard things on paper…My Mother died in August of 2008 and my Dad from ALS in April of 2009. I am a constant writer and yet, writing about everything that our family was going through…it was very, very difficult. The emotions are still raw and I still can’t commit it to paper. I can empathize with what you were saying.

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  7. Right after the shootings at Columbine a colleague asked me to go to Colorado and help with crisis intervention. I understand how you felt living in the heightened state of turmoil and chaos. It’s as if your life has become part of two worlds, and you’re trying to prevent two worlds colliding.

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  8. I can only imagine how your brain responds to such stress. I know I wouldn’t have been able to sort it out either. Hopefully you’ll remember enough to tell us some of your stories when you’re able.

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  9. I can’t imagine having to live that everyday. While you did a wonderful thing by being there, I can understand you not wanting to go through it again in the evening. There are times in life where playing games and finding laughter are the saving grace. If you hadn’t spend that time in the evening taking care of yourself, you would have never been able to help all those other people in the way that you did. And even though you didn’t write it down, I imagine that you have little difficulty remembering your time there vividly.

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  10. I can easily realize that at times, the things or happenings that we come across are very painful. As I have mentioned before that have survived 2005 Kashmir earthquake. I have seen the scenes that I pray that I never see them again.

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  11. I’ve been through a few hurricanes and more than a few earthquakes – certainly nothing that comes close to this level – but I can well imagine the need to shift the mood at the end of the day. And I do agree with your view Tim about the value of these experiences, but I don’t believe we have to wait for a natural disaster. There is so much that can be done on the community level to make a difference. I’ve chaired 3 county food drives in my community and there’s no question it’s a win/win for all concerned.

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  12. I can totally relate to this. Some things/experiences are enough at the time without writing them down. There is a time and place for everything. The words will come later when it’s their time.

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  13. Everyone’s a writer…when the time is right. At least that is my opinion. Sometimes, I think the memories have to ferment until they become clear. Your MASH experiences are a great example. They are very much a part of the memory and I sure can see why.

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  14. I thought it was interesting that you compared your trip to MASH. I do believe that sometimes we come across circumstances that are too painful to discuss. Many veterans coming back from the war refused to discuss their experiences – they were to painful and better left unsaid.

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  15. Your comparison of your experience and your behavior as comparable to that in a MASH unit makes perfect sense. Some people never even manage to talk about (let alone write about) experiences of that magnitude. I have never had a travel experience as monumental as the one you had, but even so, I usually have trouble writing about experiences on the spot—-especially ones that are especially meaningful. I’m just returned from a trip to Turkey and Israel and I had so many thoughts swirling around in my head at the end of each day that little got written—and certainly nothing got written coherently. However, if I have any intention of ever capturing the experience, I need to at least jot down little notes and take photos. I confess I’m inconstant in doing so and then regret it later.

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  16. I know what you are saying here. I went to Ireland, trip of a lifetime, and I didn’t write about it at the time. I wish I had because now I worry I won’t be able to express what that experience meant to me. Love the travel theme of the site. Sounds like you’ve had some interesting and meaningful experiences.

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    1. Photos are an amazing source for prompting recollection of even minute details. I find that once I start to tell a story from long ago, the details come out of the minds back room and populate the narrative.

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        1. My apologies. I still think you will find that one memory will build on another and before long most everything will come back to you as you tell the story…whether with the aid of photos or not. All the best. Tim

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  17. Writing about things as they happen is never the same as writing about them from memory. I’ll hash things out from time to time in my journal, but it all has no shape. More and more, I rely on photos to jog my memory of past travels before I start writing about the experience. I’d even go so far as to say locking stuff away in the mind for a time is the most beneficial aspect of the writing process.

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    1. I have been finding that out more and more as I go deeper into my memories. As you say, photos are a great way to jog out the details.

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  18. Hi Tim. I find your post fascinating because it touches upon the challenges of recapturing a painful experience. The beauty of writing is bringing the words to life, but naturally there’re some memories we might not want to relive. By recapping the happiness and heartbreak on your blog, you show how great of an outlet writing is. We’d all be as fortunate to go on adventures like yours.

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    1. That is very kind of you Tatia and very much appreciated. You are right, writing is very much an outlet and I derive a lot of joy sharing my adventures.

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    1. I would do this again in a heartbeat. In fact I think everyone should do it once. It would go a long way in helping people realize what they have and appreciate life a little more.

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