Know Thyself

Pixabay, abc's, alphabet, learningJuliana knew exactly who she was as early as kindergarten.

“You’re so smart!” her teacher said because she could read her ABC’s not only forwards, but backwards.

By sixth grade Juliana was the “school genius.” After she completed an IQ test, the results were given to her parents in whispered joy by the principal, with Juliana sitting right there. No one ever told her the results, but her parents’ faces shone like the sun.

So of course at 16 years of age Juliana decided to pursue a medical degree. By 27 she was an MD. And now, at 39, she was already a renowned gerontologist. She’d chosen the field because her mentor told her that gerontology was the place to be because of all the aging baby boomers. gerontology, elderly, Pixabay

But truth be told, Juliana studied gerontology because her favorite person in the world was her Granny Iris. GI (as Granny laughingly called herself) was Juliana’s best friend, and Juliana was determined that her best friend would be healthy and active for a long, long time.

GI wasn’t a particularly nice woman. In fact, she was blunt and cantankerous and at times much too truthful. But Granny Iris was the only family member who didn’t act as if Juliana walked on water.

“Don’t get arrogant. You’re only one of many smart people.” GI repeated to Juliana when she was 10, and 25, and just last year when Juliana was offered a prime position at New York’s most prestigious hospital.

You are not God,” Granny Iris would remind Juliana when she’d saved an 81-year-old from a heart attack, and diagnosed dementia early enough for a 66-year-old matriarch to find the right resources for herself.

Juliana agreed with her Granny most times: she wasn’t the only smart cookie in the jar. And she tamped down her arrogance, even toward the insurance administrators who tried to dissuade her of necessary medical procedures.

But she disagreed with GI on one thing; in many ways, Juliana was God. She cured people – even old people. She helped the ill feel better, and she prescribed the right medicines for the right diseases. She. Saved. Lives.

But tonight, when her eighth patient in three hours died despite her steadfast ministrations using all of her skills as a brilliant doctor, Juliana finally realized that her Granny Iris was right.

She was not God.

She called her Granny in tears. “The Corona is king of the world,” she exclaimed. “I’m useless. I’ve wasted my time being a doctor. I…”

But Juliana stopped her self-centered one-way dialogue when she realized that her GI was trying to respond, but only producing long hacking coughs.

sunset, sunrise, life, deathAnd suddenly, Juliana fell to her knees and began to pray, amazed that indeed, she did believe in God.

But not in herself.

Based on the prompt: Write a story about someone discovering something new about themselves. What have you discovered recently about yourself?

127 thoughts on “Know Thyself

  1. Pam, you have written a wonderful story that leads to self discovery.
    The life of Juliana was a blessing and with Granny Iris as a central focus she
    walked the road to success without getting big headed.
    Meeting something beyond her strength made her one of us all.

    miriam

    Liked by 2 people

  2. A wonderful story Pam, thank you … Unsure how to answer your question though about myself … mmmm, maybe that when I get down to tasks at hand and commit to completing them, that they DO (miraculously) get completed. Just gotta make that commitment and voila! it’s a great feeling!

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  3. So beautifully told Pam, some things are in God’s hands and Gods alone. And I pray often to her/him for the things I cannot control. As I connect back to source and heart.
    Sending love and hugs along with well wishes my friend. 🙏💖 Much love 💖

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  4. Wonderful story, Pam! I hope GI is OK.
    I don’t believe in god–at least not in the god of the bible–but I feel so for poor Juliana. I hope her confidence in what she can do is not permanently shaken because to have that skill and knowledge is something special, too.

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    • So many things are unanswered in the story, Merril. But that’s the reality of life. It would be interesting knowing what Juliana means when she says she now believes in God. My guess is that she has felt the power of a Spirit that is greater than she is. And that is the beginnings of a really good doctor.

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  5. Oh my. Feeling sadness wash over. And hope and love. You wrote this in a way that tied so many things together especially in this virus time. We all can keep learning that lesson about turning things over to a God. I remember and forget so many times, as I suspect most of us do.

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  6. “She wasn’t the only smart cookie in the jar.” This made me smile. 🙂 My grandmother often called me “one smart cookie.” Now I wonder if she was implying “one” of many. 😉 I love the way your story illustrates how shocking it can be to discover how helpless we can feel in new, unanticipated, unprecedented situations. Sometimes all we have is prayer.

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    • I do too, Sue. Right before I wrote the story I saw a TV news segment about doctors who were just devastated that they could not help the Covid patients that came to them. That’s how Juliana emerged in my imagination.

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  7. This was an especially thought-provoking story and one that I suspect will stay with me and prod my brain throughout the next several days and longer. You’ve covered so many subjects with both mystery and succinctness here: God, human intelligence, prayer, disease, aging, things beyond our control, parenting, and ego, to name just a few. I would like to think that I’m constantly learning new things about myself, but I’m not sure that’s true. After reading this, I might just take some time to give it some deep thought. Thanks for making me a better person. ❤

    Liked by 3 people

    • Well Amy, I know this is not new about you, but you certainly are an in-depth thinker and you have a great deal of empathy for others. I think Juliana fits that bill also but now her arrogance is replaced with greater empathy and added humility. I think that is leading her on the road to being a better doctor.

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  8. I read your parable twice and also the comments. WOW, oh, WOW!!
    Amy Reade (what a fabulous surname!) covered all the thematic bases to this fabulous post. I especially resonated with “things beyond our control.”

    My thoughts after a short reflection: Yes, this post read like a parable. And your story reminded me of the Serenity Prayer and also evoked the limitations of man: Psalm 31:15 “My times are in thy hand: deliver me from the hand of mine enemies,” like Covid-19. 😀

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    • If you have a chance follow Amy on her blog. I have met her every year when I visit the New Jersey seashore because she lives near there. She is a great writer and author of gothic mysteries, Library mystery series, and cozy mysteries.
      I think you are right. What Juliana goes through is a testament to the times we are living in. May we be humbled enough to believe in a higher power and not just in ourselves. 💜 Thank you for your spectacular comments.

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    • Yes, and the older I get, the more I realize that many things are out of our hands. That said, I also do believe that we can lead ourselves on a joyful path, or a painful one, and that choice is up to us. But…who knows? I just like it when characters “talk” in my head and I learn from them.

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    • Perhaps the answer to your thoughtful musing here is that there IS no solution to the “problems of our times.” That it’s all about how we handle those problems – and the more kindness and love we share, the more kindness and love we generate. I’ll go with that…!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Very interesting and intriguing story where her granny taught her to stay humble and not have pride just because she had achieved so much at such a young age. Granny taught the values of life and nice of Juliana to take heed of her granny who she loved the most. Too good, Pam.

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  10. Brilliant piece of writing, Pam! And, quite recognizable too. My Oma was my best friend and she was the most truthful person I knew. While liking me a lot, she’d always put things in perspective and never put me on a pedestal (at least not in my presence :-)). I’m dedicating my memoir to her. ❤

    What I’ve learned about myself, recently? A lot in regards to editing my book and killing my darlings. For the first time ever. Also, your recent words to me have been ringing very true lately: I’ve learned to love my editor. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think that in some ways the story of Granny Iris and Juliana must be true, Patricia. I do believe that we writers hit a stream of universality when we let the words flow (after all, I have no idea where “Juliana” came from), and we touch on the consciousness of others as we create our fiction.
      That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. 🙂 Thank you so much for your comment.

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  11. Moving story. I discovered that I can’t change anyone, but I’m constantly wishing I could change the world . . . make a difference, with my writing or somehow. 🤷‍♀️ Time to get down on my knees.

    I love the way your writing is direct and descriptive. I love how you got through Julianna’s back story briefly and succinctly. I need to learn how to do that.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I love how you loved my Juliana story! She just “came” to me as I began to write from the prompt about someone discovering something new about themselves. So… I believe there really is a Juliana out there.
      I understand your “letting go” the need to change individuals (I went through that – and at times probably still do until I stop myself), but trying to change the world is an exercise in frustration. In my mind – one kind act at a time. One smile, one hug, one word of praise at a time – that’s perhaps the best I can do. May it make a difference. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Oh wow — this is a story for our times. And as the wife of a physician, albeit a retired physician, I can vouch for the moments when they know only too well they are NOT God.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Juliana definitely needed to come down “a peg or two” and her GI certainly found ways to help her lose her “God” image. I have just been around a bunch of doctors (probably will post next week) and I have nothing but admiration for medical staff. A warm hug to your doctor-man, Elizabeth! ❤

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  13. Hi Pam, There is something extra special about many elderly people and especially GI. They often cut to the chase, like you say “blunt.” Oh, gosh, Pam…you made me cry…again. Your gift with timing and with words.❤️😢

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  14. Good way to run with the prompt, Pam . . . but what a tough way to learn that GI might not be hers to save.

    I’ve noticed/discovered that I am happy (for no reason) more often now than in the past. Like your story, I expect this discovery is a by-product of the pandemic ~> I’m doing next to nothing, so I can’t attribute my happiness to external experiences. It’s got to be an inside job.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. There is so much to this story that I loved, Pam. The first things that I thought of were the gifted children I taught. The parents were often excited when their child acquired this label, but it wasn’t always such a blessing. Gifted to them meant, “My child is special.” All parents should feel that way, regardless of a child’s intelligence. While many children grew up to be like the Julianas of the world, others struggled mightily with the increased expectations. My experience with some “gifted” children is that they did not relate well with others and also drove themselves hard because of their perfectionist tendencies. I’ve read the suicide rate is high among gifted children. (Whew, I didn’t know all that was coming out when I first responded.)

    Your writing is beautiful. You always get me to buy into your characters. Well done, Pam!

    Maybe this isn’t a fair question for you—it’s like asking what is your favorite child—but which of your books do you like the most? I’m going to get it. Your writing is outstanding!

    Liked by 4 people

    • Pete, I am a huge fan of Pam’s writing, and I am sure all of her books are wonderful. I ordered “Molly Finds Her Purr” for my 4 and 6 year old granddaughters and read it to them over Zoom. They love it! I wrote a post about this book with photos “Connections, Chaos and Fun! Reading to Children in the Zoom Room” if you are curious. Like you say, Pam’s writing is outstanding. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    • I appreciate your comments about gifted children, and second every thing you said. I’ve seen the things you discuss here, and personally, I was in 6th grade when my parents were told I was “extremely gifted” in math. I was tested like I was a monkey, and I reacted by doing as poorly as possible in all of my middle school math classes so by the time I was in high school, I had the reputation of being a failure in math. :–0 Phew, got out of that one, didn’t I? Although in true Karma fashion, my son is off-the-charts in math ability and works in finance. You gotta love how the universe works.
      And in response to your praise, I’m delighted you enjoy my characters. I suggest you read my “romantic suspense” novel THE RIGHT WRONG MAN https://www.amazon.com/Right-Wrong-Man-Pamela-Wight-ebook/dp/B00AYNQ7EG/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1386943889&sr=8-1 , e-book or paperback. Many men have given it good reviews (as well as lots of women 🙂 ) It’s “for fun,” and a page-turner. I think you’ll like Meredith.

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      • Good to know. I’ll pick it up later today. Why not add another to the overloaded TBR list?😎 I appreciate the recommendation. Most people don’t answer the book recommendation question.

        Liked by 1 person

  16. I like your story with the profound ending. Good lessons in there for all of us, if we’re lucky enough to pay attention.

    With a hat tip to Nancy in the comments above, I’m happier now, too. Like she said, I’m not doing much so it must be an inside job. Who’d of thought that a pandemic would put me in this headspace?

    Liked by 3 people

    • I find our “inside job” of happiness confusing also, Ally, since I’ve experienced the same as you and Nancy. Perhaps we have learned to appreciate the “little things” in life even more in this time of being “locked down” and in the middle of a pandemic?

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  17. Beautiful Pam…I do think as we get older and travel a few different roads we do understand that there really are not many miracles waiting in our wings. We all do the best we can and shine every once in a while in the field that we enjoy. I know if any of us could, we would stop this virus but if nothing else we have learned that none of us are in charge…and so we pray. We pray to whoever we think if our higher power…I pray for peace for our country for the dying to stop and for life to go and mostly, I pray for hugs…Blessings my friend to you and yours and your writing.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Wow, that was a hard lesson. A tear-jerker, Pam, and what a dive right into this character. I discovered that I’m pretty good at taking care of old people. I didn’t think I’d have the patience, but its a labor of love that I cherish. It’s been okay. A great question to reflect on. Thank you, my friend. ❤ You didn't tell us what yours is!

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    • I’m not surprised to learn of your discovery, Diana. Anyone who writes with such empathy, soul-searching, and understanding of their characters as you do, would have empathy and kindness for those who are elderly. We writers know that the older a person is, the more history lives within them of their own pains/sorrows/loves/joys/and experiences. So much to learn from our aged ones, and unfortunately, our society discounts the lessons they can give us. Taking care of “old people” is an honor and a privilege. But I also know it’s not for sissies. Hugs to you.

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      • Thanks for the lovely reply, Pam. You’re right that our society tend to discount the elderly, but there’s much to teach and share that comes from the experience of aging. Some of us are fortunate enough to apply that experience to writing. A beautiful post, my friend. ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  19. Wow! Pam, I love this story filled with the wonderfully crafted characters of Juliane and Granny GI. The latter a kind counter to all the praise heaped on young Juliane during the years. What a most shocking way for Juliane to finally realise that she wasn’t God, no one ever is … we can only try our best. I hope her Granny is okay …

    Personally, through necessity, I’m learning to leave my worries behind for longer periods of time and enjoy every day as it happens. I really am impotent in the face of so much and can only try and keep myself and my family safe. Corny, eh?!

    Wishing you a lovely Sunday. With hugs winging their way to you. xx ❤️🤗

    Liked by 2 people

    • NOT CORNY AT ALL, Annika! This is the way we do best in this world – leaving worries behind and focusing on the sweet stuff that floats around us. I’ve been working on living in the “NOW,” not the past or future. Now is pretty wonderful, minute by minute. Flower by flower. Cloud by cloud. Story by Story. And friend to friend. I’m thankful for you… NOW! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  20. I’ve always enjoyed your short stories, but this one…this one gave me chills. They snuck up on me and bam.

    May I respectfully suggest that you publish a book of five-minute-shorts, either with or without a theme. And include this one. -hugs-

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your words and your suggestion knock me over with surprise and a huge smile. I wasn’t sure if this story of Juliana was “good enough” to share, and yet, it felt so real to me that post it I did. The response has been rewarding.
      I am creating an “anthology” of my five-minute shorts (and have been doing so for several months- but you know how it always takes longer than one anticipates). My first book will be my non-fiction flashes of live, and the one after that will be these fictional stories that are so real to many. THANK YOU.

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  21. Isn’t it true that people want to hear flattering words but deep down they want to hear the truth. I liked the fact that Juliane wanted to be a doctor not for anything else but for her beloved Granny GI.

    You created a beautiful story about Juliane and Granny GI, Pam. And the ending is so touching.

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  22. Hola Pamela… lovely story and it really hits home. COVID has certainly made some people more resilient than they thought they were I think. It has also made other recognize priorities and rearrange them. That is what it has done for me. I have my bad days and good days and some feel “normal” but when I go out and see the masks, I feel like I am in the twilight zone and it is surreal. I wish we could just jump to January… 😩 MY grandmother always said not to wish my life away but I just want to go to the point where we are all done with this stuff.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ah, your grandmother sounds a bit like Granny Iris. She has left you with wise words and advice. As the world has stopped in some ways, the silence helps us hear what we once missed: the bird calls, the breeze across our face, the gentle “hello” waves from neighbors across the street. These things keep me going, anyway. Love and hugs to you.

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  23. Pingback: Ruptured and Repaired | roughwighting

    • Ohhhh, wow, what a brilliant discovery, and one that I think many of us have crossed as we get nearer to the end, than from the beginning. But in some ways, this kind of discovery helps us appreciate each and every day in magnificent ways. xoxo

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    • Yes, Andrea, I like the way you mention LAYERS. I think sometimes we want to think of ourselves as “this,” when really, we are many things, not just “this” or “that.” We are multi-layered, and discovering those layers can be a lifetime’s work.

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  24. How we struggle to believe in ourselves — knowing on the one hand, all the amazing things we have to offer the world, and on the other, feeling short of finding the ways to offer them. Lately, what I’ve learned is that plans can change. What we desired ardently a number of years ago may not be exactly where we want to go today. And it’s OK. Not a failure … just change. And growth.

    Liked by 2 people

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