A Different Decision

We face decisions everyday.  Some are those types of decisions that are made without even thinking: Starbucks coffee? Pants or shorts? Dinner in or dinner out?

But what about those decisions that feel impossible to make?  Those decisions that seem to have no right and no wrong choice? Each choice is equally good and equally bad… So the decision becomes an impossible one to make.

Or maybe there is a clear right and a clear wrong to the decision, but you are just unable to elucidate which is which.  There are those times when the wrong decision feels like the right decision and you get fooled into making the wrong choice.

Has this happened to you?

My maternity leave is coming to an end.  I specifically chose to only take 5 months of my full year leave because I didn’t want to put myself too far behind in my training.  I don’t want my surgical skills to wane, I want to write my exam on time, I want to stay with my cohort of colleagues, and part of me misses work.

The trade-off: I could spend a whole 7 more months at home with my kids.

I don’t feel ready to go back.  The time I have had off feels like it has been stolen from me because I’ve had to deal with work problems while I’ve been off.  We are losing our nanny and my husband doesn’t want a new one; therefore, our childcare situation going forward is rather precarious.  I feel, deep down inside of my soul, that going back to work in two weeks is going to cause my home/family life to spin out of control.

Lately I have been thinking more about extending my leave and taking off my full year.  The reasons I made the initial decision haven’t changed, but I feel like priorities have shifted.  Despite this shift, I find this decision is still impossible to make.  There is no clear right or wrong, and the advice I get from everyone I talk to is the same: Do what’s best for you and your family.

Unfortunately, I feel like what’s best for me and my family is not very clear right now.

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The Assault

I almost didn’t go.

He threw punches hard – right at my face.  I kept my hands up to protect myself, but it took all my strength to stop the blows.  I focused every ounce of my attention on blocking his fists as they came barreling towards me.  He hit hard – he was the same height as me, but at least 50 pounds heavier – all muscle.  And I was still weak, recovering from the recent birth.

I wasn’t ready. The roast chicken was just finished and straight out of the oven.  The kids weren’t even fed yet and Husband was still at work.  There was no way I could go, even if I wanted to.   My phone buzzed – A message from Husband: Are you going?  I’ll meet you there to pick up the kids… Don’t worry, I’ll feed them later… I don’t want you to miss it because of me.

It was my turn now.  I finally got my opportunity to hit him.  I used all my strength, but there wasn’t much.  I wasn’t very coordinated either: punching someone’s face is just not something that comes naturally.  Left fist jab, right fist power… those were the instructions, I remembered.  All my power was barely enough to make him flinch.  He took them though. He let me hit him and I gained confidence in my ability.  I didn’t stop for a full minute.

I rushed up the stairs to change, leaving the golden chicken, half carved on the cutting board.  I yelled down the stairs for the kids to get ready to leave.  I packed up the baby and into the van we piled.  I was going to be late, but that’s better than missing it entirely.

I’ve met him before; a polite, older gentleman… it seemed.  He used to come with his son, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen the teenage kid.  We’ve exchanged polite pleasantries in the past, but we’ve never really spoken more than that.  Nevertheless, it was obvious that he was strong and that I would never stand a chance.

Husband arrived shortly after I did.  He ushered the kids out and left me there for my class, alone.  It was glorious to finally have my time to myself.  After a day of hashing out work issues and my recent discriminatory evaluation, I was deflated, exhausted, and feeling defeated.  I wasn’t really in the mood for conditioning, but I figured the physical activity would be good for me.

After I finished my round of punches, he started at me again.  This time he added in the elbow strike to the face.  Here was my chance!  He was stronger than me, but in his older age, he lacked the coordination to properly execute the move.  He was slowing down with each change of motion.  The blows were not as hard.  If I wanted to, I could have overpowered him in this weakness. But I didn’t.  I let him finish.

The conditioning circuit was a challenge, even after being back for almost two months.  Fifteen stations, one minute each, with a fifteen second break in between.  My heart was racing but I was starting to feel better.  I’m glad Husband forced me to go… this is what I needed.

Another minute was over.  I had gained confidence after seeing my opponent’s weakness.  It was my turn.  The elbow strike to the face was challenging, but I adapted quickly.  Now it was him who almost couldn’t keep up with me.  Left jab, right power, left elbow to the face.  Harder and Harder each time.  More speed.  More power.  I didn’t even see my opponent anymore.  Instead, I imagined hitting the face of the person responsible for all the stress and anguish I’ve been through.  It felt good… No, it felt exhilarating!  One minute was not long enough.

When the circuit was over, it was time for some partner work.  My usual partner is another woman similar in age to me.  We met up to start the drill.  However, we were separated because she was much shorter than me.  For this drill we needed to be similar heights. I was matched up with the older gentleman.  I worried that I wouldn’t be able to match his strength well.   The instructor then handed out the hand pads and explained the drill.

One last drill: him first, then me.  Left fist jab, right fist power, left elbow to the face, right elbow straight up under the chin.  Yes!  One more power blow to really drive it home.  I held the pads for my opponent while he struggled with the coordination of the drill.  I spoke the moves aloud to help him with his concentration.  I wasn’t vulnerable anymore.  I had the power.  I gave him the pads after his minute was over.  Now it was my turn.  With each successive drill I gained power and confidence.  That jerk, with that smug, “I have power over you” look on his face stood no chance.  With each impact my body made with the pads I imagined him struggling and reeling in pain.  YOU HAVE NO POWER OVER ME.  I AM STRONGER THAN YOU.  My minute was over.  My fists were sore, my elbows raw.  But in my head I saw his face, dejected, battered, and bruised.  I had won the fight.

The punching drills were challenging, leaving my arms tired and sore by the end.  Regardless, I felt great.  I dropped the pads to the floor and faced my older, male partner.  We shook hands and bowed towards each other.  I thanked him, and him me.  “You’ve got quite the power and coordination,” he said to me.  “Great Job.”  I felt a small amount of guilt imagining beating someone else to the ground, but I quickly shook it off. He deserves it, even if it’s only in my imagination.  I was thankful that I scrambled to come to class.

And in my victory, I went home to eat my cold roast chicken.  It was delicious.

Wednesday Morning Cappuccino 

Here before me sits a perfect cappuccino…  Made with espresso from my Nespresso coffee machine, hot whipped cream frothed with my milk frother, and poured into my beautiful Le Creuset cappuccino cups.

My blogging absence can only be explained by the simple fact that I have been engaging in my life more wholeheartedly.  I’ve come to realize that my time at home is limited and quickly coming to an end.  I’ve been taking the time to notice and appreciate the small things – like this delicious cappuccino that has become a regular part of my morning, or the beautiful, emphatic smiles I receive from baby El when she sees me for the first time in the morning, or even just reading a book or working on my puzzle.

My last blog post was about how my life felt like it was falling apart; how I felt that I lacked clarity and understanding about what I was doing and direction I was taking in life.  Circumstances haven’t changed, but I feel that my efforts to slow down, live in the moment, and experience life wholeheartedly have made me step back and accept life for what it is.  My career is demanding and unyielding at the moment; but I can do it.  My kids are a handful and they pose some difficult challenges; but they love me unconditionally and loving them back is the best gift I can give them.

If anything, I have realized the need to temper my expectations.  I need to slow down and accept my life and the situations I am presented with as they are.  So far this has been working.  Hopefully it will continue to work well as live moves forward

Unravelling

She sat at my kitchen table with her foot resting on the chair and her knee pulled up to her chin.  Her blond hair perfectly placed in a messy bun, juxtaposed against my un-purposed messy morning hair.  We planned a coffee date for first thing in the morning, after she dropped her kids off at daycare.  We picked my house because the baby likes to sleep late.  She had a lunch date with another friend later that day: she was trying to fit in as many visits as she could.

“What can I get you to drink?” I asked as I instinctively placed a mug under the coffee maker. “Coffee?”
“No thanks, just water,” She replied. “I’m changing the way I eat.  No coffee, nothing processed.  I want to make my body as strong as I can.  I’m getting ready to fight this.”
I wasn’t sure if she wanted to talk about it.  I said I was going to take her lead.

We met the year before at Taekwondo.  Her oldest son was in my youngest son’s class.  For weeks we would sit and talk about the superficial realities of life: Work, kids, husbands, weather… Slowly, our friendship developed and we would occasionally meet up outside of the gym.  I’m always happy to make new friends.

“So, when did this all start?”
“Remember back in February, when I had pneumonia?”

She was gone for weeks from Taekwondo, I remembered.  She came back and it seemed to take ages for her to fully recover.  When the snow started to melt, I ran into her in the neighborhood, walking with her husband and two boys – it was the first time I had ever met her younger son, who wasn’t more than three.  We vowed to have a playdate with the kids once the weather was a little nicer.

“The chest pain never went away, so they did an x-ray and they found two spots.  I had a biopsy.  Then I had a CT scan.  Then they wanted a PET scan.”
I listened intently, trying not to ask too many questions.

A few months ago we all went out together for a friend’s birthday party.  Our friend was turning 33.  Just like me… and just like her.  We joked that 33 would be the best year; it had to definitely be better than 32! And we toasted to that, them with their wine glasses and me with my diet pepsi (since I was pregnant and all).  We vowed to have more get-togethers after that – but we didn’t

“They found a few spots in my hip bones and in my leg bones.  I’m going for my first appointment with the oncologist on Wednesday.”

Wednesday was my birthday.  There would be not be another toast to 33 on my birthday.  No this time.

“I’m going to tell her that I don’t want timelines and I don’t want numbers.  I’m going to beat this.  I know I will!”

I painted a reassuring smile on my face and placed my hand over hers.
“Of course.”

I waited until she left to feel the sadness and the heartache – for her and for me.

I don’t think I could ever be so strong if I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer.

 

Tempered Expectations

Every year I dread the arrival of my birthday. It is such an anti-climactic day and for years it always felt like something was missing. 

Maybe it’s because when I was a kid, my birthday was a big and special day – and now there is nothing special about it. 

Maybe it’s because my husband is not the kind of guy who celebrates anything, my special occasions included. 

Maybe it’s because I have this idea that everyone around me has more exciting birthday experiences than I do.

Maybe I’m just getting old. 

Whatever it is, I always feel like it could be more. 

Today was different, though. I had no expectations. In fact, I expected that it would be nothing special and nothing more than any other day. And because of this tempered expectation, I was not disappointed when there were no big hugs and kisses and home-made cards from my kids. I was happy to spend the morning getting some exercise and getting to know a new friend. We had a nice family dinner at my favourite restaurant,  and I was pleasantly surprised when my husband gave me a birthday card with some thoughtful words written on it.  The only birthday gift I got today was a free birthday drink from Starbucks. 

It wasn’t exciting and it wasn’t spectacular, but I wasn’t disappointed – and that’s better than most birthdays. 

Finding Myself

“One of the greatest tragedies in life is to lose your own sense of self and accept the version of you that is expected by everyone else.”
K.L. Toth

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Image Credit: Google Images

How do we know when we are on the right path in life?
How do we know that we made all the right decisions for all the right reasons?

I have come to a crossroads, perhaps a crossing of paths like the one famously described by Robert Frost’s most quoted poem.

I’m acutely aware of a dissonance in my life – the two largest parts of my life suddenly seem to clash with each other.  I am not a happy mother because I know that when it comes to my kids, I have sacrificed more of what they need of me than makes me comfortable.  I am not a happy resident because I’ve come to realize that perhaps the amalgamation of my parts – the very aspects of my life that make me the person I am – does not completely fit the criteria of what my superiors want to see.

I cannot take more away from my life at home – from my children; from me – and force myself to become someone who isn’t really the person I am meant to be.  If I continue down this path, I know that at the end I will be more unhappy than I am right now.

Unfortunately, the other path is scary, unknown, and not what I ever imagined in my life.  I don’t know what the end will look like or what I have to traverse to get to that end.

What I do know is this:
I am a mother to three beautiful children, and that should be celebrated.
I am a physician who is caring and compassionate, and that should be valued.
I work hard to bring balance to my life, and that should be what matters most.

I love my job, but do I love my job enough to let the other pieces of myself wither away?

Just Be With It

Yesterday was a bad day… It’s a really long story, the kind that requires knowledge of the background situation and a good handle of what my day-to-day job entails.

Originally, This blog entry included all the details of what happened. I decided to delete it all though, because it just made me feel so bad and I don’t want to give the situation that much power over me.

Ultimately, I received a poor evaluation for my last rotation before El was born. This shocked me for a number of reasons, but mostly because I felt that the rotation went very well and was no different than any other rotation I’ve done.  Also, at no point during the rotation did anyone tell me that they thought I was acting or performing so far below their expectations that I deserved to fail. In fact, I only ever got positive feedback from people.

I know this evaluation is inaccurate and untrue. I have my beliefs as to why this may have happened and I have started the process of appealing the evaluation. Regardless, it made me feel horrible about myself and it made me feel completely helpless in the face of the guy who seemed more than satisfied to give me a failing evaluation.

In light of my recent feelings of inadequacy at home, this certainly didn’t make me feel geat about myself at all.  I am trying to do a good job of everything in my life and I feel like I am falling short everywhere (even if I’m technically not). It just constantly feels like I’m doing something wrong.  This meeting completely ruined my day yesterday, and it ruined my night. I am trying hard not to let it ruin my whole week.  While this situation does need to be sorted out and rectified in some way, I’m going to try hard to just “let it be.”  There has to be something to learn from this situation.


(Thanks to a wonderful blogging friend who posted this image on that other big social networking site… I needed to see this today)

Start From What You Know

b0446333f9307d0fc1fb22570b6c6885Over a year ago, when A. was diagnosed with autism and I took a month off work, I bought a puzzle because it “spoke” to me.  It was my goal to finish the puzzle that month.  Unfortunately, it didn’t happen: The puzzle was more challenging than I anticipated and I just didn’t have enough time. I stored the partly completed puzzle under my bed and worked on it when I had time.  A few months ago, though, the kids had some friends over and they were playing hide and seek – and under my bed was a perfect hiding place.  The puzzle was ruined.  I packed it up, preserving the assembled parts as best as I could and stashed it away.
A few weeks ago I decided to re-start the puzzle.  I started by counting pieces and I was disappointed to realize that I was missing 10 pieces.  I counted again.  Still missing 10 pieces.  How could I possibly think they would all be there?  I was saddened, as the message of the puzzle spoke to me and there was something inside of me that felt a sense of disappointment that this puzzle would never be completed and eventually hanging on a wall in my house.  I remembered buying it at a local bookstore, so I set out for a walk with baby El to see if they still carried it… but they didn’t.  I eventually found it on their website, on clearance for $10, so I snatched it up.  That small part of my inner being felt satisfied.

The puzzle arrived yesterday and I was eager to start working on it.  I began sorting the pieces and I immediately remembered how challenging the puzzle is.  I felt disheartened thinking about all the work I had done before that was now wasted:  There was the actual assembly of large chunks of puzzle, but there was also the immense work of sorting pieces.  There are only 2 colours: black and off-white, so sorting came in the form of the size of print.  Hours of sorting – gone.

With the new puzzle, I knew there was only one place to start – placing everything out in the open.  I proceeded to filter out the edge pieces… the only pieces that have a definite position in the puzzle, and the only pieces that are almost predominantly black.  And so, I put all the sadness of what I had done and lost previously behind me and I started again.  I started with what I knew to be true and I will only work forward from there.

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The “No Time” Life

Everyday I come up with some great thoughts and ideas that I want to blog about.  Everyday, however, I never find time to sit down at my computer to write them out.  Right now I have borrowed some time: baby El is awake but content in her swing.  A is at school.  E is distracting our Nanny.  I am sitting at the kitchen table drinking cold coffee, awkwardly holing my breast pump in place with my forearms as I type this post  (I’m still waiting for my pumping bra to arrive from Amazon).  I am lamenting the fact that today was A’s year end party at school and I missed it … because it it totally escaped my mind after I read the notice sent home last week.  I am not looking forward to explaining my absence to a sullen little boy when he gets off the bus in about an hour from now.

Yesterday I eagerly sat down on the bed, ready for my marathon afternoon of nursing El to get her to sleep, and I placed my computer within reach – hoping that maybe I could blog about one of the many thoughts that have been floating around in my head.  Unfortunately, El wasn’t going to cooperate.  After an hour of struggling to get her to sleep, I decided to wrap her up in the carrier and take her for a walk.  While on my walk I came up with a great idea: I could make a voice memo of my blog ideas and then transcribe them another time. So that’s what I did!  I walked and I recorded some great blog ideas.

But this morning, with my borrowed time to blog, I didn’t feel like listening or transcribing any of my ideas from yesterday.  I felt this overwhelming sense of sadness and disappointment; like the emotions that go along with the posts was missing and I was just transcribing some sort of task.  My sadness was extended because I didn’t want to listen to or write down my thoughts from yesterday (really, for the past week or so that have been neglected).  Instead, I decided to write about these feelings of disappointment.

My lack of blogging is just one place that I have been feeling disappointment.  For weeks now I have been trying to find time to add some breast pumping sessions to my day with the hopes of increasing my milk supply.  I want to do this slowly in anticipation of my return to work in 3 months, and also to counteract the likelihood that my supply will decrease when I have my IUD inserted in a few weeks.  Alas – that hasn’t been happening reliably.  Let’s also not forget about my unfortunate omission of A’s celebration today.  And then there is the complete lack of time (and energy) to get back into an exercise regime.  The weight loss has slowed and it’s time to kick it up a little, but there is no time.  My only form of exercise comes as leisurely strolls around my community with a fussy baby strapped to my chest. Oh, and there is also a serious lack of quality time that I spend with my other two kids… I feel like an epic failure.

I know that;s not the case; but it doesn’t stop me from feeling that way.  I want my life to go back to having some reliable structure and from, even if that structure is different than what it used to be.  Like most, I am a creature of habit and I thrive on routine and schedule.  This daily routine of “no/poor sleep – nurse fussy baby all day – maybe eat – maybe drink coffee – maybe shower – maybe do something I want to do” is really starting to eat away at my will.  I’m not sure what to do to change things up…

First Steps

Today I was supposed to be at a conference for work.  Initially, I was determined to go despite being on maternity leave; I wanted to show that I am hard working, committed, and engaged.  I also worked very hard all year to plan an important even that is happening at this conference – today actually.

Going to the meeting, however, would have meant travelling by plane, alone with baby El.  It would have meant staying in a hotel room alone for 4 nights and single handedly taking care of the baby, while also trying to attend the meetings and give off the vibe that I have it all together.  It would have likely been far from enjoyable.  So, I decided to stay home and enjoy this time with my family.

Staying home also means that instead of spending over $1000 to attend a conference, I can save that money and use it towards a family vacation.

Despite the overwhelmingly good reasons to stay home and not attend the conference, it was a difficult decision to make.  This is the first decision (I guess the second decision, if you count having a baby and taking a maternity leave) I have made in my career that puts my family ahead of my desire to be “the best I can be” in my work life.  This is like the first step in “retraining” myself to put my family and my role of Mother ahead of work and my role as Doctor.

This was not a hard decision to make, but it was difficult to execute, mentally.  I knew the right thing to do was to not go and stay with my kids and baby at home.  But I feel sad and I am mourning: I feel like I have thrown away an opportunity to show myself off as a dedicated, hard working, and committed resident.  Likely, it wouldn’t have made a difference to anyone but me.

Hopefully these steps get easier as the time goes on.  I feel it is imperative that I make this change in my life