“Hi. I’m just going to duck in your office for a second and hide. I saw Barbara* come in and she’s probably going to try to pet my belly again.”
The colleague who whispered these words to me had slipped through my half-opened door with remarkable speed and stealth for someone in her third trimester of pregnancy. I gestured to a chair and offered a quiet, sympathetic laugh, and though she joined me, her laugh was a tired one, mingling wry amusement with embarrassment and consternation. The offending belly-petter was an older woman, kind and well-meaning, but abounding in far more maternal advice than actual expertise, and cheerfully unconstrained by any sense of personal boundaries. Continue reading →
Ben Utter, one of the founders of Vital, reflects on how we–doctors, scholars, parents, everyone–can improve each other’s health by listening.
The lark sings loud and glad,
Yet I am not loth
That silence should take the song and the bird
And lose them both.
—D.H. Lawrence, “Listening”
The doorbell rang in my dream the other night, and I opened our front door to find a food deliveryman. Without a word, he handed me a cooler and walked back toward his car. Inside the Styrofoam container were several slices of fugu, the infamous, highly toxic pufferfish, the kind prepared only by highly-skilled Japanese chefs, lest a residual trace of poison kill a diner. In the dream, I handed these morsels to my young daughter and son and watched—passively, but, as is often the case in dreams, with a suffocating sense of imminent danger—as they slurped them down. I awoke with a gasp, disoriented, still wondering whether or not this dangerous dinner was going to send my children into renal failure (turns out that on this count, at least, I needn’t have worried, since tetrodotoxin kills by paralyzing the lungs—an unsurprising error on the part of my mind’s dream production company, which had no more data to draw on than what I knew about fugu from watching that episode of The Simpsons). Continue reading →