Worn

Interior, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Every year around this date I especially find myself marveling at love…

Love that is gained and lost, and found again. Love that is unrequited and unrewarded and yet still persists. Love that claws its way through the heart and lodges itself there against all logic and stays regardless of physical presence or absence. Love that endures despite being utterly spent, never quite reaching the point where it simply cannot love anymore. 

Lonely love.

Brilliant love.

Eternal love.

For over twenty years I have loved this love. At times gingerly, even tentatively, and at other times fiercely and with conviction. Is it more valuable for bearing all of the scars and scuff marks, the wear and tear of time and hurt? Is it more precious for simply surviving?

Perhaps….

But then, all love is precious. 

The Day I Stopped Singing

Just like all kids, I had dreams. BIG, big dreams.

For instance, I wanted to be a figure skater for ages. They had beautiful costumes and were so graceful. But then one day I realized that since the freezer in my kitchen was the only time I ever saw ice, and that in itself was rare since the freezer was up high and I was not even in grade school yet, there was no way that was ever going to happen.

Then, I watched the Nutcraker ballet on TV and fell in love with being a ballerina. Those costumes were even better than figure skaters’ and it didn’t require ice. Every year I looked forward to the annual broadcast of that ballet at Christmastime. BUT since my parents thought dancing was sinful and god forbid some man wearing a codpiece touched me there during a lift, my chances of scoring lessons were slim to none. After a few years I gave up on that dream, too.

Then ROCK music came into my life. Well, my parents version of “rock” is not really rock but it was the only thing with a beat of any kind that I was allowed to listen to back then (think Amy Grant before she was “disgraced” or Micheal W. Smith). These were songs that I could feel. I just had to sing to them and I figured I was pretty good at it, too. At least I sounded good in my room with the radio turned up loud. My mother sang solos in church from time to time so it was in my blood, right? All I needed now was to be discovered…

In short order I had my entire career as a vocal star laid out and I took every opportunity that I could to sing in public until one day I recorded myself singing and then played it back. Cue the record scratch. It sounded horrible. Just like that, my music career was over before it had even begun.

After that, I stopped singing in public. I lost my voice so to speak. I would rather stand completely naked in front of a crowded room than to be asked to sing in front of them. I still sing in secret, though… In retrospect, it was the 80’s. The recording device I use using was from the late 70’s. It might not have been my voice that was the problem. Or maybe it was. I am not sure you can be a good judge of your own voice, really.

I say all of that to say that my son has started singing. He has always flat out refused to sing anything except for a few instances of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” sung in the darkness of bedtime when he was a toddler. It was like a switch flipped on all of a sudden a few weeks ago and now he is singing with gusto, with passion and emotion. 

As I watch him in the rear view mirror, it is an instant flashback to the time before my own infamous playback. He has a good voice, actually. I hope he sticks with it. I discovered something, too. When I join in with him, he does not scream and clamp his hands over his ears, begging for me to stop.

Now that he has found his voice, I hope he keeps it. It feels good to have someone to sing with…. 

The Deviled Inside

img_2933

What food do you love the most at Thanksgiving or Christmas, or any other holiday for that matter? What do you look forward to being on the table? 

I don’t really care for turkey or dressing. Or congealed cranberry “sauce” from a can. Green bean casserole? Ick. My personal favorite holiday food is deviled eggs. In fact, I ran an extra four miles this morning just so I could eat 4-5 eggs and not feel guilty about it. Oh, who am I kidding? I will probably try to eat six or more…. Of course, I have to sneak them. Most people judge you for openly putting that many deviled eggs on your plate.

For my international readers who may not know what deviled eggs are exactly, they are hard boiled eggs that are shelled and cut into halves. The yolks are popped out and mashed with mustard and mayonnaise, some salt and pepper, and then piped back into the egg halves. They are then topped with a dash of paprika and a slice of pimento stuffed green olive.

Mmmmmmm…..

There are countless variations out there. Some with bacon. Capers. Dijon. Schiracha. I haven’t met a single one I didn’t like. 

I first discovered deviled eggs when I was a kid. Thanksgiving at my grandmother’s house, to be more precise. She would boil up about three dozen eggs and assemble several platters of deviled eggs, one for the elder adult table, one for the lesser adult table, and one for each of the kids tables. Fortunately, the kids at my kids table hated deviled eggs. More for me….

Here’s the thing, though. The eggs are hard work. I would much rather make a key lime pie with a homemade graham cracker crust and fresh squeezed lime juice from dozens of those teeny, tiny limes without the help of a juicer or garlic press, my finders bloodied from trying to get a tablespoon of zest off of the awkward rinds, than make deviled eggs.* 

Why do I love something so much and yet hate to make it? Dunno, but there it is. Probably a good thing because honestly, I cannot control myself. Twice a year, if I am lucky, I can get my fill.

So, what are YOU eating today?

*I made a key lime pie once and I promise you it will not happen again!

The Troll Under My Bridge

Bridge partially obscured by rays of sunlight

“Hey, Doc?”

“Ummmhmmm?” I was trying to figure out what button to push to get his tetanus booster to propagate into the right field of his health maintenance screen. I had a cuss word on the tip of my tongue that really wanted to get said…

“Are you happy?”

That made me stop what I was doing and look up at him. 

People don’t often ask me that question. Most people just assume that I am super happy. I mean, I do have that nice looking fake wedding ring, right? Plus, there is the fact that I work hard to project joy and happiness for my patients. They don’t need me dragging all of my baggage into their office visit. 

But now that the question had been asked I took a momentary inventory of my happiness quotient. Am I stressed? Sure am.

But, am I happy?

Then it hit me. Yes, yes I am happy. Very happy. You know how I know? Generally, I dislike the holidays but this year I find myself looking forward to them. The sound of Jingle Bells does not make me want to strangle some innocent, unwitting fluffy creature. 

I do my best writing from dark places but right now, I don’t want to go there.

So I say all of that to say that while you may read dark things, like yesterday’s mediocre medical poetry, I am not writing them because I am some shell of a person paralyzed by grief who spends the day curled up in a corner thumbing through a lifetime of regrets. Hardly. I have better things to do. And when I do go to dark places it is not because they are my places. Often I borrow them. And I don’t live there. Not for long, at least! Not anymore.

Today, I am happy. 

Today I am thankful. 

The End and The Beginning

Yesterday was the last day I had to use our old electronic health record. I hate that thing. Loathe it. In fact, I am not quite sure there is a word in the English language that would adequately convey the depth of my negative feelings about that thing. If I could physically place that EHR behind the wheel of my truck and roll over it back and forth until it was pulverized, it would be very gratifying.

However, as I closed it out for the last time, my virtual desktop completely empty, I felt an odd sadness that I had not expected. I spent nine years learning how to play that game. I knew how to navigate the system, work around its weaknesses. It was familiar to me. I was comfortable because I knew what to expect. I knew how many clicks X, Y, and Z required. If I couldn’t print, I knew I needed to log out and try to get hooked up to a new server. I knew how to phenangle clicks to get credit for preventive care, even if it was laborious. I knew lab orders and imaging orders could get lost, how we needed to utilize a back up plan. I knew that no matter how much I complained about the screen blanking out periodically, or the eprescribe function sometimes not working, the help desk would always say that it was a “known problem” and there was no ETA on when it would be fixed, if ever.

On Monday, I will log into a completely different system. A better system. As I drove home yesterday I realized that I now felt more professional, more grown up, more like a “real” doctor. I felt taller in my seat, somehow.

Now I have a grown up EHR. 

Then a black cat sauntered across the street in front of me at a stop sign, mocking with his bright green eyes….

Seriously. It was eerie.

The reality is that I don’t know what the hell I am doing in the new system. The training sucked as all EHR training does. I don’t know what to expect. I don’t know where the holes are or how the work arounds need to function. I don’t know how to get credit for preventive care. Heck, I’m not even sure I can construct a coherent office note and we will be taking a hit financially due to the switch since the new system is more expensive and we have had to operate at reduced capacity due training requirements.

What is the future going to be like in my virtual world going forward? 

Hmmm…

Black cats aren’t really bad luck, are they?

Drippy

pink flower with raindrops

This part of the country has endured oppressive humidity and temperatures in the mid to high 90’s for months. Even last week running was miserable, despite doing it in the dark of night. It took me an hour in the air conditioning to stop sweating. 

Then BOOM! 

Rain. A cool front. 

This morning the air has a bit of a nip to it. 

No matter what kind of awfulness is going on around us, this kind of weather is like a healing salve. The Earth has a way of going on without us, in spite of us. In the grand scheme of the universe we are tiny specks who have no sway over the orbits of the planets or the brightness of the stars. The seasons will change whether we want them to or not.

Life will go on.

How’s that for a sappy, drippy post-debate post? ūüėä

Comparing 

zinnia in black amd white

Life is made of joys and sadness. Ignoring the sad, painful times neutralizes the joyful ones.

One of my office managers keeps insisting that we not talk at all about the negatives of our job. He would prefer that the staff and physicians only project happiness, sunshine, and roses at all times. I am not sure that is entirely healthy.

This is the way of life lately. No one wants to hear or even acknowledge the negative. Sadness makes us uncomfortable. It is painful. It is a natural thing to want to avoid it.

Why can’t you just be happy?

The problem is that completely ignoring it promotes isolation. It keeps us from recognizing who is suffering, who is at risk, who needs help. This is a tough job for all involved. What is wrong with acknowledging that so we can all work through it together? 

Am I the only one who feels this way? What is wrong with me?

And it takes away the drive to get better. 

If everyone is happy, why do I have to do it right?

The worst part is that it takes away the celebration of the real triumphs. 

What? Can we BE more happy?

It is OK to feel fear, doubt, sadness, frustration. It is what we do with those emotions that is the key. How do we respond and use them constructively?

I see this in patients, too. So many believe they should not have to feel any negative feelings, that such feelings should be avoided at all costs. 

I know I should still be happy. I am going bankrupt, my wife left me, and my son is in jail, but I should be happy. Everyone tells me I should just be happy. Make me feel happy.

Doc, I am really, really trying to stay positive. I have metastatic cancer and I am in pain all the time and chemo is kicking my butt. Everyone tells me I should stay positive or I won’t beat this but I really just want to cry. I need to cry.

You know what? Being sick sucks. Having cancer sucks. Sometimes life just sucks.

And it should be OK to say it sucks. It should be OK to grieve and be sad and to cry if need be, even if it makes others uncomfortable. 

What we need is balance. Not a cult of happiness.

The Triumvirate 

crape myrtle petals in the street in front of my house

Name the three best days of your life, not counting having kids.

Jane from Out of the Rabbit Hole asked me that question. She also wants to know what all of you would say are your three best days so I invite you to write your own posts and provide a link here or you can answer in the comments below.

My three best days (I cannot talk about some of my good days, too risqu√© for some of you good people….):

1. Making an “A” on my first exam in medical school. (I really did belong there!)

2. The first time a patient said “thank you.” It was a great feeling, knowing I could make a difference for someone.

3. Standing inside Notre Dame in Paris when someone started playing the cathedral’s pipe organ. It was breathtakingly, achingly beautiful and felt as if it was the culmination of so many other beautiful and painful things I have seen and felt in my lifetime. If I had died right there, I would have been happy.

Your turn!

Also, is anyone else have WordPress wonkiness today?!??!??