The Road Not Taken

_DSC0085To say that I and the people around me have had the year from hell is an understatement.  I have been waging battles and battles have been waged against me.  I have sought the counsel of friends, coworkers, partners, therapists, mentors, and career counselors.  I have meditated, cried, prayed, run, screamed, and pounded my fists against tables.  I have spent time in introspection, outer-spection (this should be a word), and around the block and down the street-spection.  I have questioned God, the universe, my sanity, my purpose, and the laws of truth and fairness.  I have spent many nights ruminating, contemplating, annihilating, vacillating, and capitulating.

And finally, however brief and fleeting it may be, I have a sense of peace.  Whichever way this turns out, I feel a sense of calm.  I have felt this before over the past year, but inevitably someone, something would go and muck it up.  Whatever truce had been forged would be ruined by the distant gunfire of deceit.  Waging battle means you have something to lose.  Today, I don’t feel like I have anything to lose.  There is a freedom in that.  I have the sense that my toes are dangling on the edge of a cliff, the waters raging beneath, and I could swan dive into the depths of the ocean, perfectly, with the slightest ripple and splash as my feet enter the water like an Olympian.  I rise to the surface, my face breaking through the imperceptible line between water and air, gasping in the salty oxygen, victorious.

I’m diving in.  All in.  I’m about to find out what I’m worth.  Will I be bargain basement?  Target? Neiman Marcus? Will I be on clearance or discarded at the Goodwill?  Funny thing is, million dollar artwork has been found at the Goodwill.  One man’s trash….

I know what I’m worth, that’s where the battle began.  My worthiness (all of our worthiness) is not defined by dollar signs, but by integrity, work ethic, and the ability to give the absolute best without financial gain.  Getting the best out of me does not increase with the size of the check.  The best things from me happen when there is no money involved.  Like this blog.  Like teaching.  Like phone calls to my patients.  Like humor in the face of despair.  The best things in me come out when no one is looking, when no one is paying attention.

I am at a crossroads.  I have been here for longer than a year.  I have stood, pacing back and forth, sometimes putting one foot to the left and walking a bit, then backtracking and going right.  Sometimes going back up the main path, but never able to get back to the beginning for all the roadblocks in my way.  I’m not scared.  I have no fear.  I know my worth and it can not be measured and it can not be bought.

A poem hangs in my exam room, one of my favorites, The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost.  I thought I hung it there for my patients, but really I put it there for myself.  It’s a reminder to follow my path, however strange and unyielding it may be.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

 

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

 

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

 

Posted in Healthcare Today, My Stories, Poems | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 41 Comments

Pink Flamingoes

18491753_10212954057671337_7137225199933683469_oA funny thing happened when our family returned home from a week long trip to Disney World.

We spent the entire week living out of our RV in what I would consider the epitome of RV parks, Disney’s Fort Wilderness.  One week there will ruin you for any RV park anywhere.  RV parks aren’t exactly known for their plush surroundings.  In fact, prior to owning an RV, I pretty much thought RV parks were seriously tacky.  My opinion hasn’t changed much.  I have embraced the tacky.

Disney’s version of an RV park is clean, perfect WiFi, snack bars, restaurants, boat rides, golf cart rentals, a plethora of wild animals (deer, bunnies, squirrels, frogs, lizards, armadillos, and possums -were just a few that we saw), shopping, groceries, sing-a-longs, and outdoor movies and s’mores with Chip and Dale.  I think what I like most about Disney’s RV park is that no one actually lives there, they just visit and then move on.  Other RV parks get a little weird.  People live in mobile units that are meant for the open road, but they park them and put out pink flamingoes and garden gnomes.  They don’t leave.  They stay.  I find that weird.

I find it so weird, that I think I could do it, too.  My husband and I talk about it on occasion.  When the kids go to college, we could sell everything, downsize our current RV (it sleeps about 10, rather uncomfortably), and hit the road.  We could stay at campsites along the interstate or at the beach.  We could drive to California and ride up the west coast through Canada.  Anything is possible when you are driving your house down the interstate.  We could stay in the mountains during the summer and the beach during the winter.  We could stay put for a while and put out pink flamingoes, then pull them up, pack them under the coach and drive to the next destination.  Nomads.  Adventurers.  Road Warriors.  Imagine the possibilities!

We spent a week in pretty close quarters when we weren’t fighting the crowds at the parks.  Our hot water heater didn’t work and the kitchen sink sprung a leak, but the toilet worked magnificently!!  That wasn’t the case the last time we went to Disney.  We discovered on the first day that toilet paper got stuck somewhere in the pipes and backed everything up.  So the toilet paper had to be bagged and not flushed.  Ewwwwww.

RV life isn’t for the faint of heart.

Four people living in about 300 square feet of space for 7 days.  Without a kitchen sink or hot shower.  You get kind of used to it.  When we got home, we unpacked our clothes, food, and toiletries.  I took a hot shower.

Everyone was exhausted from the drive and the week of nonstop activity from sunup to sundown.  I found myself relaxing on the couch with a book, my husband had fallen asleep on the chaise part of the couch and both of my kids sat next to me playing on their iPads.

After 7 days in close quarters, a funny thing happened, we found ourselves not dispersed to our corners of the house, but sitting inches apart from one another on the couch.  I know it won’t always be like this, at some point my 8 and 6 year old will be 15 and 13.  They won’t want to be with mom and dad in an RV.  They won’t want to sit next to us on the couch.  They probably won’t want to go to Disney World anymore.  In that moment, alone in my realization, I breathed it in and held it in my chest for a moment.  Trying to make time stand still, putting a little pink flamingo of memory in the tacky RV park of my mind.

 

Posted in My Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 30 Comments

the shiny penny syndrome

fullsizeoutput_207eKid’s collect a lot of junk.  Some of it is good junk like Lego’s and pretty dolls and some of it is utter rubbish.  Take for instance the penny.  I would walk by a penny without a second thought.  Not a kid.  Especially a little kid.  While walking in a busy parking lot, they will see the penny on the ground, stop mid stride with their mother barely keeping from tumbling head first over their little body, bend down and scoop that little treasure up.  They will turn it over in their hands, eyes wide and bright and say, “Look!  I found a penny!” as if it were the greatest treasure known to mankind.  Oh to be so easily pleased with one self!  To be so easily excited by the small gifts from the universe!

In a quest to remember those little moments, I keep a stash of the treasures that my children have discovered (I may be a bit of a junk hoarder myself).  Many of these things were discovered, marveled at, and then handed over to mom to “carry for me.”  Or maybe they were shoved into one of my pockets by little hands that were scurrying for even more treasure to hoard.  Of course, those treasures were soon forgotten until the end of the day when the clothes came off and the rocks and bits fell haphazardly to the floor.  Or they banged around in the dryer days later.  Then I remembered them, but the kids still forgot.  That’s the way it is with kids.  The greatest treasure one minute, forgotten the next.

I imagine even as adults we act like this.  The new car, the new job, the new relationship. All shiny little bits of treasure that were once so magical and desired, but once acquired quickly become old, devoid of luster, and forgotten.  If only we could maintain the feeling of finding a shiny penny.  Maybe it’s just me.  That thing I worked so hard for, dreamed about, spent my life acquiring, I’m there.  I made it.  I’m at the top of my game.  Now that I’m here, it’s not what I expected.  It lacks a certain luster.  It seems devoid of the magic.  It’s mundane and the true reason I did it -seems forgotten.  Why did I do all of this again?

I’m ready for a new adventure.  I’m ready for a new treasure.  I’m looking for a shiny penny that stops me in my tracks and makes me marvel at the strange gift from the universe.

Or I might just stick my hand in my pocket and discover that I already have that shiny penny.  I put it in my pocket a long time ago and forgot about it.  It’s been there the whole time just waiting to be rediscovered.

 

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In Montana an assault on a reporter and an assault on truth

The folks at The Shinbone Star don’t take too kindly to the rabble rousing in Montana this week.  To call it rabble rousing would be an understatement, it was down right assault when Greg Gianforte, at the time campaigning for a seat in the US House of Representatives, can be heard tussling with a reporter.  On tape, he is accused of body slamming the reporter and he offers no defense, no denials.  He later issues an apology.  There is no question that it happened.  The question is -do we tolerate such behavior?  It seems the answer is -yes, as he was easily elected to be a representative in Congress.

As you can imagine, a group of reporters and editors had a lot to say about the incident.  Listen in to their conversation….

 

In Montana on Thursday, Republican Greg Gianforte won election to the U.S. House of Representatives despite the fact that the day before, he body-slammed a reporter for asking a question. As outraged as we are here at The Shinbone Star, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that a significant number of Americans — both in […]

via In Montana, an assault on a reporter and an assault on truth — THE SHINBONE STAR

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It’s not always apparent

IMG_0218I would never ever presume that having children is for everyone.  There are people in this world, and yes, many of them are women, who don’t want children.  They just don’t.  Not wanting children is not some kind of psychological condition, it’s not some kind of brain damage, it’s not some kind of flaw in the genetics of the female who has no desire for kids.  Children are just a lovely kind of awful that isn’t for everyone.

I know this.  I knew this when my husband and I decided to start a family.  I had my heart and my eyes open and we leaped into parenthood thinking that we were fully aware.  It was just the natural progression.  We had our degrees, our jobs, our home, each other.  We did the typical trial run with a dog and 2 cats.  We were ready.  It was time.

And now?  After 8 years of being parents?

We haven’t truly slept in 8 years.  But that’s OK.  I’m still wiping poo from booties that are getting way too big for that.  That’s all right.  Cartoons and dumb kid shows have taken over every TV in the house.  No big deal.  Lego’s underfoot.  Crumbs appear 2 seconds after the floor is swept and mopped.  Phantom spills.  Muddy shoes.  Strange crusty spots (boogers?).  Mysterious tags and itchy things in clothes that require 5 outfit changes.  Only going to the theatre to see Disney movies.  Pizza and burgers all the time.  Fighting.  Crying.  Negotiating.  It’s all worth it.

Less of me.  More of them.  That is what being a parent means.  It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  There is no escape.  No reprieve.  They are mine and I am theirs.  I will never forsake them.

Being a parent isn’t cute.  It isn’t all fluffy bows and adorable outfits.  It isn’t unconditional love and endless cuddles. Most of the time, they don’t even like you that much.  Most of the time they are trying to get their agenda passed the boss.  Most of the time, kids are incredibly self-centered and self-absorbed.  They want what they want when they want it.

Being a parent is about teaching them what you are still learning for yourself –be good, be kind, think of others, wait your turn, ask politely, share.  Being a parent is about helping our kids unlearn and tame that part of us as humans that stomps it’s feet and flails it’s arms because it didn’t get what it wanted.  I’ve seen some parents still working on this for themselves.  I’m still working on it.

Parents are forming the good humans of the future.  I can not think of a more important job.  It’s not a job for everyone, but for those that choose to be parents, there is no greater purpose than that.

 

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Glue Gun Control

fullsizeoutput_2077After my last post, I decided to do something “fun” and stop feeling so deflated.  I had been kicking around some “fun” ideas and landed on one that required a trip to the craft store.  I wanted to make something for the kids at work.  As a family doctor I see my fair share of children.  I see my fair share of their grandparents, too.  I see a lot of dad’s and mom’s, aunts and uncles, cousins, pretty much the whole family, hence the name “family medicine.”  Just yesterday, I saw 3 generations in one day, all with separate appointments, oblivious that the whole family had made plans to see me.

Kids expect something when they leave a doctor’s office and rightfully so.  Typically it is an uncomfortable experience.  Poking and prodding, getting their fingers pricked, maybe peeing in a cup, and then the dreaded shots!  They must be compensated for their efforts.  I understand this.  For a while, and I am embarrassed to admit it, our company put a hold on buying treats for the kids.  They didn’t want to spend the money!  Seriously.  For a while me or the staff would pick up treats and candy on our own for the kids.

After being bought out by a bigger company, it seems that we are able to pay the bills a little better AND afford to buy candy.  And stickers, too.  Thank God, because I hear the dentist down the street offers better stuff than we do and I will not be outdone by the dentist!  Isn’t it enough that they never work Fridays and never take call?  Do they have to take the love of the children, too?

I made a few trips, starting at the Dollar Store.  I’m pretty sure that I could design a spectacular wedding from supplies just at the Dollar Store.  Do not underestimate their bounty!  Then I headed to the Dollar General and Hobby Lobby.  I collected my supplies and hurried home so that I could get to work.

It has been a while since I crafted.  I had forgotten about how absolutely horrible it is to use a glue gun.  Why has no one perfected this device yet?  By the time that I was done, there were spiderman like webs of glue draped all over the place, my fingers were burned, and a steaming pile of glue pooled under the gun.  Glue guns are simply the worst!  In the end, I am pretty happy with my creation, stringy glue bits and all.  I feel a bit vindicated.  I made retribution to my kids.  I made up for the evil corporation who didn’t think it was a necessary expense to give a kid a lollipop after their shots.  I made something from nothing.  I made amends and I made myself smile.

By the way, in case you were wondering -what exactly did she glue??  Did she actually glue the candy down so the kids can’t pull them out??  Well, NO.  I glued the grassy parts under the candy so you can’t see the styrofoam ball holding the candy.  I know, I should have my own crafting channel on YouTube….

 

 

Posted in Medical Musings, My Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Not for Human Consumption

IMG_0191Blogging.  Writing.  The great need to share the inner works of one’s brain is a double edged sword.  On one hand, there is this insatiable need to get the words and ideas out, to share them with someone, everyone, to connect, and to feel a shared experience or emotion with others.  On the other hand, there is this feeling of vulnerability, of being too open, too exposed, too consumed by others, a desire to shrink, hide, or flee.

In medical terms, consumption was once used to describe someone infected with tuberculosis (TB).  They had consumption.  Their bodies were consumed by illness.  They wasted away, racked with fever, night sweats, coughing and bloody sputum, their bodies shriveling and shrinking before their eyes.  No one knew at the time that the illness was caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, an insidious little bacterium that can wall itself off in neat little cavitations in the lung, eluding attack from the immune system, all the while destroying the lungs and thereby the host.  TB is a nasty little shit.  People could live for a while like that, in complete and utter misery, welcoming death when it finally arrives.  In that time, they likely infected their families and caretakers as TB is highly infectious in close quarters.  Of course, now there are antibiotics to treat TB, but it’s tough.  There is resistance and you have to take multiple antibiotics for up to 9 months to get rid of it.

We never see that kind of consumption anymore at least not where there is modern medical care, but there is consumption.  It seems that there is consumption on a scale never seen before.  There is a beast and it needs to be fed.  It lives in all of us.

Consume or be consumed.  Isn’t that the law of nature?  I suppose it depends on the day, but I could be the subject of either.  Lately, I have felt consumed.  Consumed by work, my family, my thoughts, my worries, my questions, my path, my choices, my future.  The thing that I offer for consumption, my blog, has slowly whittled away.  At one time, I had 12 posts scheduled at once.  My cupboard was overfilled with delicious little morsels, but lately I am writing and posting the same day, a week in between.  Sprinkling bread crumbs.  I haven’t the time to sit and ponder and write.  I have been consumed.

Of course I feel an obligation to post to feed the beast that is my blog consumer.  A lovely docile creature, I picture as purple and fluffy, but with a ferocious appetite and a keen wit.  I love my blog consumer when the food is plentiful and good, but when there is a famine of thought and words, I can feel the pressure.  It’s self induced pressure really.  I just want to make something good.  Something worth consuming.

It doesn’t happen all at once, but slowly over time.  One does not even know it is happening because the change is almost imperceptible until time reveals the aftermath.  Being consumed steals your reserves, your courage, your creativity.  It leaves you spent, hollow, and emotionless.  The soul shrivels and shrinks.  In order to restore the energy and vitality that was once present, one needs to consume, to be fed.  It’s the law of nature.  It’s the circle of life.

I knew that I was having an issue when I wasn’t being funny anymore.  I was having trouble finding the humor in life.  My blogs became so serious and dreary.  I knew that I was reaching the bottom of the barrel not just in my blog, but in life, too.  Somewhere along the way, my reserves of joy were being depleted and I needed to do something fast.  You might find that I’m pulling back a bit.  Maybe not writing quite as often, but it is only for a spell.  The first thing that I have planned is a trip to Disney World with the husband and kids in 2 weeks.  If that doesn’t put a smile on my face, I don’t know what will….

 

 

Posted in Medical Musings, My Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments