Show and Tell by Erika Roshanravan, MD, FAAFP
When Jerri contacted me to see if I could present something in this Show & Tell, she said I should write about something that “moved me in this moment”. I laughed out loudly. I mean, it is January 20th, 2021 after all! It is a day history was made, more than once, a day filled to the brink with moving moments. But I know that I am not alone in saying that what I really can’t stop talking about is Amanda Gorman. After months of senseless suffering and chaos amidst the dual pandemics of the new coronavirus and the centuries-old structural racism, it was breathtaking to hear this young Black woman recite her masterpiece. “We lift our gazes not to what stands between us but what stands before us. […] It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit, it’s the past we step into and how we repair it.” Our road towards healing faces many steep hills ahead. But The Hill We Climb. https://youtu.be/LZ055ilIiN4
Her incredible poetry moved me to tell you about other words in song, poetry, and speech I listened to many times since March. They are a somewhat random, surely incomplete collection of words that inspired me and helped me cope and process stress and uncertainty this past year.
In the first weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, when I felt stunned in disbelief and grief about what was happening, I listened to “Rise Again” as sung by the Toronto Physician Women’s Choir https://youtu.be/Wuiqee-AC-o and cried many, many times. “We rise again, In the faces of our children, We rise again, In the voices of our song, We rise again, In the waves out on the ocean, And then, we rise again.”
As the months went on and we worked on redefining our lives and our relationships and discovered my profound need for connection, “You Will Never Walk Alone” sung and played by 300 musicians from 15 countries https://youtu.be/6gpoJNv5dlQ was a welcome reminder that we are all connected in this across the globe, maybe now more than ever in my lifetime. “When you walk through a storm, Hold your head up high, And don't be afraid of the dark. At the end of a storm, There's a golden sky, And the sweet silver song of a lark. Walk on through the wind, Walk on through the rain, Though your dreams be tossed and blown. Walk on, walk on, With hope in your heart, And you'll never walk alone.”
As I reckoned with my own history with racism and privilege amidst the uprisings for Black Lives Matter in the summer, John Lewis’ last words “Together, You Can Redeem Our Nation”, particularly as read by Morgan Freeman https://youtu.be/VXa7Vn8Ar6M was a powerful appeal for me to keep working hard on myself and on moving the world around us closer towards peace, equity and justice for all. “When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war.” Another piece that moved me many times in this reckoning is this 20min rendering of Langston Hughes’ poem “Let America Be America Again” https://youtu.be/VXa7Vn8Ar6M . It was part of my former choir’s virtual fall concert, the Seattle Peace Chorus’ “Freedom Rings!” concert, and the poem is set to music by the Chorus’ director Fred West. If you have time, the entire concert is moving and worth a listen https://youtu.be/zdP_iiqWypc .
Lastly, I have been inspired and carried through by many of the words, wisdom and connections with you, my fellow family physicians. While I cannot recount here every single one of the meaningful interactions with so many of you over this past year, I want to highlight a few that have stayed with me over the weeks. One was the outstanding speech by my amazing friend and family physician Dr. Belinda Fu at our Sacramento Valley CAFP Chapter annual meeting in June. She made “decision making amidst uncertainty” sound incredibly simple in the framework of improvisation, and I encourage anyone who has not heard it to take a listen. https://vimeo.com/439151807/6a8d38c85b
Another brilliant idea is Dr. Catherine Sonquist Forest’s “Textku”s that she taught us during the December Family Medicine Clinical Forum: a haiku capturing a moment in time, texted to someone with a photo as a form of selfcare, pausing in the moment, and connecting and caring for others. So simple, so effective, and so much fun.
My newest cherished poetry collection is the recently released book “Frontline” by our own Dr. Sheryl Recinos, and as I finish writing this, I see the announcement of our AAFP Board Chair Dr. Gary LeRoy’s new book “Quotes from the edges of nowhere: The Art Of Noticing Unnoticed Wisdoms”. You all inspire me beyond words.
As we move along into this new year, I hope to be even more mindful to notice all the unnoticed wisdom around me. When Anderson Cooper asked Amanda Gorman about the last line of her poem, she said “Hope is not something we ask of others, it is something we demand of ourselves.” After months of struggling to hold on to hope at times, I finally feel very hopeful. I intend to listen to The Hill We Climb regularly, like a ritual, as we address the challenges that lie ahead. I leave you with some more words from the master, Amanda Gorman: “Even as we grieved, we grew. Even as we hurt, we hoped. Even as we tired, we tried. […] The new dawn blooms as we free it, for there was always light if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it.”