I’m here in the lab on a Saturday.  No, I’m not complaining.  I’m actually overjoyed to be here on a quiet Saturday morning, just me and my cells.  Just me, the mostly empty space that separates each atom I am made of with the fibers of my being loosely coalesced into one body.  I am in control.  I can use the microscope for as long as I want.  I can linger in the safety hood, savor the methodical portioning of media into wells and breathe in sterilized air.  When I don my nitrile gloves and warm up the culture medium on a Saturday, I am at peace.  There are few other places where I find this sort of peace.  The work is simply mechanical, but I focus on every depression of the pipette, every drip of cell suspension into the dish, every bubble in the swirling flask.  My hands become steady.  I am calm.  I’ve long since forgotten the troubles I carried in the door, things that may have haunted me for hours beforehand.  There is good music coming from my computer and I’m waiting for the media to stabilize in the water bath.  I just wanted to share this moment of peace with you.  Because there has to be somewhere where everyone finds peace at some point in their day.  Before I started doing research, my mind was constantly clouded with self-doubt, criticism, pain, and anguish.  I couldn’t find respite anywhere I looked.  I still struggle to get up and come to the lab, as if the journey was not worth the destination.  On Saturdays, we have a required seminar to attend, so I’m here on campus in the first place.  It’s an easy walk to the next building to be in my lab.  My escape.

I’ve been reinvigorating myself these past few days.  I’m in the process of making myself better everyday.  With the voices back, however, I’m far from satisfaction with my progress.  They doubt me, assail me with their negativity, coerce me into only seeing the evil in myself.  I’ve been working hard though.  I’ve made progress.  I’m going to squash my judgmental alter ego.  I recently watched a video provided by my therapist about mindfulness (not without considerable resistance on my part).  I’ve been familiar with mindfulness for quite some time now, since I was last in the hospital.  A year later though, I’ve lapsed in my focus quite a bit.  I haven’t been grounding myself on a regular basis or acknowledging painful thoughts while letting them pass by.  Obviously the letting-them-pass-by concept has not been going so well, considering my recent depression.  But that’s where Saturdays in the lab come into play.  I can focus on all the thoughts creeping in, notice their presence, and let them go out the door as fast as they came in.  I can feel my hands moving according to my will alone and I can take in these moments of peace with open arms.  “I will stop judging myself,” I say convincingly.  In this cold sterile room filled with humming freezers and chiming incubators and gently shaking flasks, I find the will to take care of myself again.  I am inspired by this place of logic and reason, and also hope and promise.  There are so many opportunities for change here, so much promise in fighting cancer, so much discovery and exploration.  My spirit warms when I walk in the door.  It is my fervent prayer that every troubled soul can find a laboratory of their own where they find sanctuary.  Maybe even more than one, if you’re that lucky…

Thanks for listening.


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