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Skid Marks

To escape the triple digit heat in Phoenix, Elaine and I visited friends in Jerome, Arizona. This is an old copper mining town that’s built on the side of the mountain and whose legendary characters left when the mine closed in the early 20th century. New characters have made their way to this little town of 500 permanent residents, among them my friends Jack and Jamie.

Just before we walked out the door, Jack called to tell me there was a fatal accident on the northbound interstate and that traffic was backed up for 13 miles. He suggested we take the back road even if it took a little longer. We were in no rush, and it’d been a long time since we traveled to the Mogollon Rim and White Mountains.

This is a place we love and have come to as a family since our kids were small; camped and fished here in the summers and skied and snowmobiled in the winters. Whatever the season, evenings were spent around the fire, laughing, groaning, singing, and storytelling. As we drove through this spectacular wooded fairyland we reveled in the nostalgia, but also deeply grateful to still be making this trip together in the here and now.

We got to Jerome just before a seasonal monsoon thunderstorm rolled in and settled in with drink and nibbles listening to the rain dance and telling stories old and new. Jack and I have known each other for 30 years when we were both beginning our careers in Phoenix, and there is lots to reminisce about. Mostly however, we found ourselves telling each other new stories about where we are at this moment in our lives.

Jack is an internationally recognized authority in dental public health and preventive medicine. He was director of the Arizona Department of Health, and recently retired as the Dean of a dental school. “Retired” is not quite descriptive of who he is and what he still does (consults, Board memberships, runs a non-profit). Now, he is now campaigning for a seat on the Jerome Town Council. He demonstrates better than anyone I know how to be passionately engaged with what he is doing in the present. He is my Energizer Bunny, reminds me how important it is to be totally involved in living my life right now and continuing to tell that story.

So, here’s the rest of the story; on the way home I looked for some sign/remnant of the fatal accident that had occurred just 48 hours earlier. The only thing I could see where the fatality had occurred were some skid marks. It made me think that as much planning as we do to make things happen, life is unpredictable, and the task is to live it as it opens itself up to you.

Bypass the roads that are now closed and travel those that spontaneously open themselves up to you. Stop all the planning and noise, and with passion and purpose tell your story… about the things you believe, have experienced and done because those are what we leave behind…leave good skid marks.

2 Responses to “Skid Marks”

  1. Hi Carl,
    I have been living in NJ for 3 years and appreciate even more your stories and photos, vibrant with family, friends and places. They lead me to ponder, whether Jerome still has the “Designs for You” store? (Elaine may know.) Not a trivial question, because it’s those places and friends that lock us into those unique moments where we become more of who we are and we’ll be.
    I’ve always admired your story-telling, how you spin tales, suspend time, until listeners are metaphorically clasping hands, wondering what’s going to happen next. You have done a great service to our colleagues and myself. Like the Bible, you have reminded us that truth may come wrapped in a story, not a statistic.

    We both share a repugnance of how our culture has been “unpacking,” but for different reasons.
    For myself, I am disappointed with psychiatry’s insistence on what’s called “evidence-based science” which has led to a conformity of thinking and solutions. This is especially grievous when we all know diseases, like depression, don’t conform to our codes and criteria. Diseases don ‘t read our textbooks.
    Your Stories are like what was once Psychiatry’s “clinical vignettes.” They are meant to be told and retold. They teach because the stories and endings don’t conform to what’s expected. Those are the moments that may give us a clearer insight of what’s really happening.
    Thank you for sharing your story. We both entered psychiatry at a time when surprise and innovation were welcomed. We now are living and likely ending in another kind of experiment, this one to control everything related to illness through regulated consistency.Rather than learn about life, we will create our own, and make our own rules.
    Let the Skid Marks Begin!
    Peggy Finston MD

  2. Carl Hammerschlag says:

    Hi Peggy:

    Thanks for your kind words and support on this journey we share. We are in agreement about the current state of psychiatry. It’s critically important that we continue to tell our stories to remind ourselves and to those who place themselves in our hands that it’s possible to move beyond one’s limitations in ways that “evidence-based science” does not hold the only answers. Sending my joy and blessings, C.

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Dr. Carl A. Hammerschlag, M.D., CPAE is a psychiatrist, author, and professional keynote speaker. He is an authority in the science of psychoneuroimmunology mind, body, spirit medicine and speaks about health and wellness, healing, leadership and authenticity . He has delivered motivational keynote speeches to corporate and business clients around the world.