Updated: Feb 23
I’ve read every Outlander book in the series.
Diana Gabaldon has created a fantastic group of characters that felt like family after the first book. So I just kept going because I wanted to find out what happened next in their lives. I also LOVE time travel. Now I’m in the middle of an epic binge of the Outlander TV series.
I expected to be nit picking all the details of the show, but somehow the creators have actually replicated scenes that already played out in my head. I wonder if they have somehow tapped into my brain. My guess is that Diana did such a great job painting a picture that the casting and set design staff had only to follow her instructions.
For those of you unfamiliar with Outlander, I’ll take a minute to describe Claire Fraser, AKA Claire Randall, AKA Claire Beauchamp, AKA Claire Malcom.
This list is probably not exhaustive. As I write it out, I think maybe I should get an alias. Claire is such a badass. Claire was an English nurse who tended soldiers in World War II. After the war she reunited with her first husband, Frank Randall, who had been fighting in the war. They took a holiday in Scotland to reconnect with themselves and each other after the war. Spoiler alert (sort of): Claire wanders off by herself to collect medicinal plants and accidentally time travels through the standing stones at Craigh Na Dun (a fictional place that may have been based on the Calanais Standing Stones in Scotland). I won’t give away too many other details, but Claire takes her nursing skills back in time 200 years where her medical knowledge is generally regarded as very helpful witchcraft.
Claire is the quintessential archetype of a healthcare professional.
She is driven to relieve the suffering of her fellow human beings. She takes her hippocratic oath VERY seriously. She has even been known to save the lives of those who have attempted to kill her. She has the inability to turn away from a crisis. She puts the needs of others above her own and works herself into dangerous levels of exhaustion. She is also stubborn, an outspoken advocate for her patients, and she feels she has failed when one of her patients dies. I want to be like Claire Fraser when I grow up.
The problem is that Claire Fraser has almost died on several occasions.
Because I admire Claire and feel as if she is a very dear friend, I have decided to stage an intervention.
Here is my letter to Claire Fraser. Please imagine this is written with a quill pen:
It has been so exciting to hear about all your adventures. Part of me wishes I could be there with you through it all. I could be your social work side kick: you would solve the acute health needs of your patients and I would help solve the social problems that brought them to you in the first place. Don’t even get me started on slavery and the inequality of women. Then I remember that I cherish first-world 21st century comforts like electricity, running water, the internet (you don’t even know about this!), a warm bed, and penicillin. I sometimes worry that this makes me selfish. However, even with all these benefits of “progress” that I experience now, people continue to suffer (we are still working on the affects of slavery and gender inequality) and so I have my work cut out for me here. I think I’ll stay.
The purpose of my letter today is to check in with you. It has become clear to me that you are not prioritizing your health and I fear that this will compromise your ability to continue delivering quality care to your patients. I’ve noticed that after a long day of work, you often slug back a quantity of whiskey that would knock a large man on his ass. Sometimes you forget to eat until someone notices how pale you are and makes you stop long enough to devour the food they bring. Sometimes you don’t sleep for days. I have not had the pleasure of amputating a gangrenous leg (ewww), but my guess is that it would be helpful to have had at least one REM cycle. Rapid eye movement sleep wasn’t discovered by Eugene Aserinsky until 1953, so maybe you don’t know about this. Regardless, it is just common sense that major surgery is best undertaken after a good night of sleep.
Beyond all your physical needs, I am concerned that your heroism, martyrdom, and plain pigheadedness may affect your mental wellbeing. Knowing that you are an intuitive person, I’m sure you are aware that prolonged mental distress can cause physical problems as well. We now have scientific evidence to back this up.
First, your heroism: humans die. Not sometimes, but always. There is always an end to life. The best you can do is use your medical knowledge, the penicillin you smuggled through the standing stones, and your big ol’ heart to attempt to nurse them back to health. Sometimes it is out of your hands. Please do not set yourself to an impossible standard. You have to stop this. If I were there right now, I would do what best friends must sometimes: shake you by the shoulders until you listen. Followed by a bear hug, the only remedy for soothing grief.
Second, your martyrdom. I agree that your medical knowledge is superior to that of the doctors in the 18th Century. After training as a nurse, you were also trained as a surgeon at a time when few women were allowed this role. Even before you attended medical school, you had tools that those misogynistic 18th Century doctors could not even begin to comprehend. HOWEVER, this does not mean you are the only one who can help relieve the suffering of people at that time or any other time. You must take a break once in awhile. You must let those other doctors practice their profession. It seems that you begrudgingly acknowledge that you have limits, but I want you to embrace those limits.
Third, your plain pigheadedness. Is that even a word? This is really just a recap of the first two issues. I’ve noticed that sometimes people try to tell you these things but you don’t really listen. Can you please ask your lovely second husband Jamie to employ the shoulder-shaking technique with a bit more frequency? Actually, Jamie does an amazing job getting through to you with alternating tactics that include shaking, bear hugs, tenderness, active listening, and mind-blowing sex. Everyone knows that those with the name Jamie have superhuman abilities to read people’s needs. I’m not sure where you’d be without his support. I mean, he has also saved your life a few times, so there’s that.
I don’t want you to take on all these observations and start beating yourself up. You are an amazing human being, physician, and friend. You are doing many many things right. You are in a position where the social system is so messed up I don’t know how you keep it together. Frankly, all three centuries have their share of injustices. I commend your fierce advocacy in some situations and your uncanny ability to play benevolent political games in others. I tend more toward storming out than playing the game from the inside. I think both tactics will eventually lead to change with the right groundswell, but only time will tell. Please do me a favor and make sure you consider your own safety before you say something that will get you killed. I need your friendship, Jamie needs your companionship, and your patients need your healing abilities. You truly have a gift.
Your comrade in healing…Jamie
If you have not had the pleasure of meeting Claire Fraser, please pick up the book or start the TV binge. You can find the first few seasons on Netflix and the rest on Starz.
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