Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Power of Thought in Motion

What do visiting a close friend at Johns Hopkins Children Center and reading “The Birthmark” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” by William Wordsworth have to do with each other? Three loosely similar pieces of literature and a Cystic Fibrosis (CF) patient are more closely related than you would think. These four stories share hope, passion and spirit without hesitation that display the power of thought in motion. The potential of the human mind is limitless.

My dear friend Jordan Magsamen was diagnosed with CF when she was just seventeen months old. She has gracefully dealt with this horrific disease for the past sixteen and a half years, and has even began efforts to conquer the impossible on a much more grand scale. As she struggles to breathe every day, something we all take for granted, she also fights for her right to live. She was recently admitted into the Children’s Center at Johns Hopkins, which has been her home away from home her  entire life. Being that I now live about twenty minutes from her hospital rather than three hours this was the first time I have ever been able to visit her during an extended stay at the hospital. A few friends accompanied me into Baltimore, travelling on multiple city buses, walking many, many blocks and navigating the complicated layout of Hopkins to arrive on the 10th floor, room 48, and surprise Jordan. We sat with her mother and her, talked about our lives and remaining positive. After four days of stay her doctors had cleared her to leave the following day and she was very excited to consume food outside of what the cafeteria had to offer. Jordan has this incredible way of always remaining confident and strong. No matter how long her stay at Hopkins lasts, she finds a way to change someone’s life while there, I am just lucky enough to have had it been me once or twice; much like the narrator in “The Yellow Wallpaper” who finds happiness around every corner, whether it be the dreary run down house she finds beautiful or the way she doesn’t let her fatigue or her doctor keep her from writing and following her passion.  

The main character in “The Yellow Wallpaper” has a grand imagination and she doesn’t let John, her in home doctor, keep her from dreaming. Likewise, in “The Birthmark” the main character, Aylmer, has a passion for science that is so intense that it “rivals the love of a woman.” Aylmer’s passion is so strong he makes remarks about his wife’s beauty marks, calling them the only mismark that stands between her and perfection. While Jordan has never gone as far to put her stride to find a cure above the love of her family, she has continually shown great efforts to make her two great loves collide. This is evident in the way the nurses interacted with her during her most recent hospital stay. One nurse even came to visit Jordan during her lunch break; the impact one person’s passion and fearlessness can have is not measurable. Just as Aylmer finds his wife’s birthmark to grow “more and more intolerable” once he has noticed it, Jordan finds her condition to be more unbearable as she gets older and her limitations set in. Once you notice a flaw, you will be hard pressed to soon forget it. It can easily become your passion to set it right, which is what both Aylmer and Jordan are doing, in their own, different ways. Aylmer’s passion becomes an obsession however, and soon his wife begins to realize that she wouldn’t be the same without it, just as Jordan wouldn’t be the same without CF and the woman in “The Yellow Wallpaper” wouldn’t have the same sense of imagination and her great spirit would not be as strong.

But it is Jordan’s spirit for life, that never wavers or strays, that is truly inspiring. She could be compared to a lonely cloud, she is blessed to be able to see the rolling hills and beautiful “golden daffodils, beside the lake, beneath the trees, fluttering and dancing in the breeze,” but she cannot always experience running through the field of daffodils like everyone. Although the whimsical speaker in “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” is saddened by his lack of true participation in life, he stills gets to see it all unfold and experience much of the love and joy that come from the “sparkling waves,” and the shining stars. Just as the speaker didn’t stop his adventure due to his lack of ability, Jordan does not put her life on hold for CF. In addition to battling her own war, she helps others battle their in hopes of evening the odds these younger patients have stacked against them. Through service, such as delivering sixty six donated teddy bears to children who had to spend the holidays confined by the hospital walls and spreading awareness in every way she can, Jordan allows her spirit to fill the lives of those that surround her, which her “heart with pleasure fills.” Being able to experience Jordan in a hospital setting really allowed me to see how her passion envelops the people around her, just as the cloud floats on no matter what and effects all he crosses over. 

These great displays of strong courage, hope, passion and spirit are often the tales of extraordinary survivors and enthusiasts. People who don’t stop at the same place an ordinary person would. These stories allowed their audience to appreciate beauty all around them. Whether there is an imperfection that antagonizes us or an unfortunate life circumstance that we must overcome, it is important to remember the capacity we have to change our situation through the power of a good idea set in motion. Be it that you take action to change the lives of those suffering alongside you, you simply change your thinking to change your predicament, you change the way you see the beauty in the world or you learn to love the imperfections in your life, it is important that you believe that you hold the key to your future.

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