There is a sparkly creative muse inside each of us. As children, everything is perfect and whole in our curious, open eyes. Creativity is our effortless language. We play games and explore our world with delight. We build hospitals for teddy bears and perform rock concerts in our bedrooms. We design blueprints for castles and draw maps for hidden treasures. Lara held mini-funerals for her Barbies in her grandfather’s funeral home. In the journey to adulthood, our innate brilliance is insidiously tarnished by responsibilities to be dutiful partners, coworkers, friends, and citizens. In the path of a heart-centered physician, our originality is oppressed further, underneath rigorous schooling, sleepless nights, and a decaying healthcare system that values efficiency over humanity.
We are promised it will get better, only to emerge from another week in our career of factory medicine, feeling broken and battered. We wonder what happened to the Hippocratic Oath: “I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.” We tell ourselves to be grateful. Don’t complain. This is how it is. We hide our disappointment in sips of wine, yoga classes, and mandated “resiliency” seminars. We further the disconnect from our wise intuition and silence our creative voice as we recall the blood, sweat, and tears we’ve poured into this choice to become a physician. We don’t see any other choice.
What if there comes a day when blood is exactly what awakens you of the possibility of an alternate life? What if you’re given the gift of a near-death experience that forces your eyes wide open to the beauty of a creative life again?
This is the story of Lara Salyer, a burned-out, family doctor mom in the rural Midwest who rediscovered her dormant creativity and saved her career. Growing up as a granddaughter of a mortician may have prepared her with a macabre sense of humor and extravagant Halloween decorations, but it didn’t brace her for her own near-death experience. Just when she wanted to quit medicine entirely, this experience inspired her grassroots mission to incorporate art and creativity back into medical care.
Candid and sassy, expressive and fearless, Right Brain Rescue is both a touching memoir and a call to action for all of us to color outside the lines and reinvent life on our own terms. This is a story of how one woman did everything “right” to enjoy a triumphant career as a family physician, but crumbled under the same pressure as many others in conventional “factory medicine”—the pressure to flip patients every fifteen minutes like burgers on a grill. The same pressure that has led to harrowing rates of burnout and suicide.
This is the story of a physician who lived life with blinders on, navigating the increasing demands of being “doctor mom.” It reveals that grit and diligent hard work do not protect you against the heartache of burnout, and the best decisions are not made with logic or reason, but right-brain instinct. It’s a story about bravely walking away from a stable, profitable career into a blank canvas of the unknown in order to live a fully authentic and awake life. This is not a self-help book or a how-to book, but you might recognize some self and help in these pages. Right Brain Rescue is a literary “creativity prescription” that will inspire us to think differently about how we use our energy, explore our values, and care for our bodies and minds so we can become the most sparkly version of ourselves.