“At some point, you have to make a decision. Boundaries don’t keep other people out, they fence you in. Life is messy. That’s how we’re made. So you can waste your life drawing lines, or you can live your life crossing them.” – Meredith Grey.
“You never know the biggest day of your life is going to be the biggest. The days you think are going to be the big ones, they are never as big as you make them out to be in your head. It’s the regular days, the ones that start out normal. Those are the days that end up being the biggest.” – Izzie Stevens
“I want you to promise me something: If you love someone, you tell them, even if you’re scared it’s not the right thing, even if you’re scared it will cause problems, even if you’re scared it will burn your life to the ground. You say it, and you say it loud.” – Mark Sloan
“It doesn’t matter how tough we are. Trauma always leaves a scar. It follows us home, it changes our lives. Trauma messes everybody up. But maybe that’s the point. All the pain and the fear and the crap. Maybe going through all that is what keeps us moving forward. It’s what pushes us. Maybe we have to get a little messed up before we can step up.” – Alex Karev
“People aren’t always who you think they are. You learn to see through it. You learn fast.” – Owen Hunt
If there is a show that has had, and continues to have, a major impact on my life it is without a doubt Grey’s Anatomy. The show premiered on March 27, 2005 and clearly I love it so much I chose to write an entire blog post about it on its 14th anniversary. Grey’s will forever have a place in my heart I am tempted to get a ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ tattoo a la reputation.
So dramatic, some might think. But here is the thing, I binge-watched 10 seasons back in 2014. That was a total of 220 episodes and for 42 or so minutes of each of those 220 episodes I was transported to a world where the focus was not my mum dying. I know it seems paradoxical, a hospital show with people dying did not make me think of my mum dying, but it really did provide a much needed escape from my own grim reality. So much so that ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ was legit my WhatsApp status for almost a year.
You see, in 2014 and 2015 I was dealing with anticipatory grief. My mum’s health was deteriorating so rapidly she was being hospitalised every month. I knew both Nairobi Hospital and Aga Khan Hospital like the back of my hand because she would be admitted for at least a week in either of those hospitals. The amount of pain she was in was so debilitating she would sometimes be prescribed morphine as a painkiller. Every now and then she would shed tears as she told me that she just could not go on in such kind of pain anymore. It was absolutely terrifying to hear that. And even more heart-breaking to process it. One day we agreed that she would hold on at least until my brother finished his degree in South Africa. He is the last born and would not be able to handle her dying when he was so far away. Heavy stuff, right? Which makes it rather strange that a show about other people dying is what pulled me out of my anticipatory grief, even just for a bit. I laughed, I cried, I shouted at my screen, I shipped so hard … that show saved my life.
(I will definitely share my experience on anticipatory grief, but till then if you are wondering what exactly anticipatory grief is, please read this informative, well-written article.)
I love every single thing about Grey’s Anatomy (special s/o to Dr. Jackson Avery because I just love looking at him) but one of my favourite things about the show is the music. So much so that I created a The Music of Grey’s Anatomy tag to pay tribute to the many iconic songs that have aired on the show over the years. I kicked off the tag with none other than Chasing Cars which can be considered the show’s unofficial theme song. Season 11 played a few Ed Sheeran songs so allow me to geek out here as I will be seeing him in concert tonight!!!
There is so much to learn from Grey’s Anatomy, both medically and general life lessons. I now know about laparoscopic surgery, “push one of epi”, personality changing tumours (I wrote about “my experience” with them here) and I usually feel so smart when I see a doctor and they explain something not using layman’s terms and I know what they mean. It is all of the cheap thrills.
But, it is the little nuggets of quotable truths that will stay with me forever (it was so hard to zero in on just a few quotes to start the post with). Years and years of quotable truths, the music, and the lessons I learnt below, are some of the reasons my commitment to the show knows no bounds.
- 30 second dance parties
This I learnt from Meredith and Cristina. They used to have 30 second dance parties in the earlier seasons when they were interns because the stress was major and they had to find ways to deal with the pressure. I adopted this between 2014 and 2015 during the height of my mum’s illness. When I say I spent most of 2014 and 2015 angry and in tears, I am not exaggerating. I cried all the time – in the office, in the matatu as I went about my day, at my local, at the salon, in my bedroom etc etc. So after discovering 30 second dance parties, I would get high and play music on my phone through my headphones. I was still living at home at the time and did not want to disrupt the household with my loud music. As a result I learnt how differently I experience music when I listen to it with headphones versus from a speaker.
Quick aside, I will never forget this gem Cristina gave Meredith as they shared their final scene together, dancing to Where Does the Good Go by Tegan and Sara.
“Don’t let what he wants eclipse what you need. He’s very dreamy, but he’s not the sun. You are.”
- Superhero stance
This I learnt from Amelia Shepherd. She was preparing for a difficult surgery and was carrying out the superhero stance when her resident walked in and asked what she was doing. This was Amelia’s explanation:
There’s a scientific study that shows that if you stand like this is in superhero pose for just five minutes before a job interview, a big presentation or a really hard task, you will not only feel more confident, you will perform measurably better.
I loved it so much I said it in my mum’s tribute at her funeral church service. Unfortunately I had to edit it out as it was too long, but this is what I wrote:
Mum was larger than life. She was a superhero. And so I want all of us for 30 seconds to feel like superheroes. Please stand up. I’m going to explain it. As per Grey’s Anatomy, “there’s a scientific study that shows that if you stand like this in superhero pose for just five minutes before a job interview, a big presentation or a really hard task, you will not only feel more confident, you will perform measurably better.” Losing mum is going to be a really big task for a lot of us. So let’s stand up and feel like superheroes for a bit
- Just because someone isn’t there doesn’t mean they are gone
I do not remember the exact episode this was said, but it resonated with me subconsciously before my mum died. After she passed away it became a sort of lifeline for me as I just could not imagine a world where my mum does not exist, in whatever form. This was also included in my tribute. I said it four times to be specific, but I will not share that here.
As Mer said after she won her Harper Avery, “the history, the memory and the ghosts of our past are sometimes just as tangible as anything we can hold in our hands.”
- Sometimes home isn’t four walls, it’s two eyes and a heartbeat.
This was said by Cristina and it really hit home (pun intended?). Jack Pearson later articulately expressed my sentiments in season three of This Is Us when he said to Rebecca that one of the things he wants out of life is a home that feels nothing like the one he grew up in. I mentioned this briefly in A Is For Anxiety as we never knew which mood my father would come home in, or what would set off one of his rages. When things were good, they were okay. But when things were bad, they were really bad. So for me my home was not in the house I grew up in, it was in my mother.
- The right way to grieve is however the hell you want
Wise words, as always, from Meredith Grey. She would know something about this as she has lost both parents, her husband and her sister. My experience with grief so far has taught me that it is personal and unique to each individual. What society deems as appropriate is hardly a one size fits all solution. We need to be cognizant of that and allow people to grieve, as Meredith puts it, however the hell they want.