A Break From Authenticity

Last night I picked up my copy of Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly. This book has been sitting on my shelf, unread, for almost three years.  My mandate to begin “Living Authentically” started shortly after I read Brené’s earlier published book, The Gifts of Imperfection. Since moving, starting residency, and having another baby, my goal to read Daring Greatly kept getting pushed to the bottom of my list.  Within the midst of my current existential life crisis, I decided it was time to pick up the book and stare Wholeheartedness right in the face.

I didn’t even get through the prologue before realizing that I no longer live, or even embody, the qualities of wholeheartedness and authenticity.  Maybe I used to, but in the struggle to keep up and keep going, I’ve let these important aspects of my life fall to the side.

Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection

~Brené Brown, Daring Greatly

The one thing I know for sure is that right now, I have no clarity of my purpose.  I am filled with fear and disconnection from my life and my purpose.  I feel confused and I lack direction because my viewpoint on life is clouded by outside expectations, judgement, and comparison.  My internal dialogue is lost and disguised by everything that defines fear and vulnerability.  These definitions were very well delineated by Brené Brown in The Gifts of Imperfection and I know that reading that book changed my life.  I blogged about that change on the old blog and I will find that post to re-post here in the coming days.

Ironically, The introduction to Daring Greatly literally reminded me of these imperfections and what needs to be shed from my life:
1. Letting go of what people think
2. Letting go of perfectionism
3. Letting go of numbing and powerlessness
4. Letting go of scarcity and fear of the dark
5. Letting go of the need for certainty
6. Letting go of comparison
7. Letting go of exhaustion of a status symbol and productivity as self-worth
8. Letting go of anxiety as a lifestyle
9. Letting go of self-doubt and “supposed to”
10. Letting go of being cool and “always in control”

Each of these ten imperfections, every single one of them, comprise the mental roadblocks that I am struggling with right now.  These imperfections are preventing me from committing to the decisions I am faced with in my life today.  I need to lean-in to my fears and rediscover my vulnerabilities.  I need to embrace them and re-discover my own authenticity

 

Queens Don’t Fail

 

 

Last week a friend of mine from medical school send me this snapshot from a book she’s reading: Constance Halls, “Like A Queen.”  She felt that this sentence embodied me.  Just the day before I told her that I was considering a specialty change.  I confessed that one of the feelings holding me back was that of failure.  In my mind, switching means failure.

The past few weeks have been a challenging time for me.  For years now, I have thrown around the idea of changing specialties in medicine.  Initially, the idea started because I struggled greatly with my work life balance: there is no room for family life in a surgical residency.  When A. was diagnosed with ASD, I took some time off and realized that I needed to give more to my family.  Despite that, I tried for a long time to convince myself that as long as I loved my job and enjoyed what I did while I was at work, the sacrifices at home would be worth it.  I honestly believe that, even now.  However, as more time goes by, I wonder if I really do enjoy my job as much as I tell myself I do.

Lately I find that I haven’t been as interested and engaged in my work.  I do my work and I take care of my patients, but I haven’t really been enjoying myself.  I wake up in the mornings dragging my feet and I spend a large proportion of the day waiting for it to come to an end so I can get home to my family.  Surgery is technically challenging and pleasurable, but I don’t feel passion when I am in the OR – Just a sense of obligation.  My call shifts are becoming more and more onerous, especially as they stack on top of each other: all I want to do is sleep.  When I think ahead to the heavy rotations, the year of being chief resident, and the studying that is going to have to happen, I cringe.  I know that not too far from now, I will have to neglect my family even more than I do now for an entire year if I want to pass my board exams.  And, I just don’t think I’m willing to make that sacrifice.

So, does that mean I need to change my goals?  Or am I just experiencing a bad case of burnout?  Maybe a little bit of both?  Is this really a good time to make a change in career paths?

I feel dissatisfied at work and I feel like I am falling short as a caring and engaged mother when I am at home.  I know, for certain, that these two feeling are not exclusive of one another.  Together these feelings play into a vicious negative-feedback cycle: I dislike my job because of how it affects my family life, and I feel guilty about what happens to my family because of how much I commit to my job.  Inadequacy in all aspects of life make for an unhappy life.  Despite all of this dissatisfaction, I feel frozen and unable to make a decision on how to move forward.  Staying in the same place, expecting things to get better feels like the wrong decision.  Yet, committing to change, admitting that I’m not happy, and taking a new path is frightening and feels like failure in disguise.

All these thoughts, ideas, and stressors have caused havoc in my mind.  Just a few weeks ago, after decideding to move ahead with the change, I felt empowered and giddy with excitement that I was taking control of my life.  That excitement has now completely dwindled away to leave only more anxiety and fear over the decision.  I fear that I am making this decision for the wrong reasons and that one day I will regret not “sticking it out.”  But I also fear the perception of failure.

I know I could finish this if I tried (and if I wanted to).  But is it what I really want?

 

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.

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.

 

Clarity

After the confusion that came from the somewhat cryptic gift from an ex- friend, there is now clarity. 

I spent a few days thinking about how I wanted to react to the receipt of this gift. I agreed with the comments that many of you left: it was not enough of a gesture to warrant any response. However, after going back and forth on how I wanted to respond, and evaluating how I felt about the situation, I decided to send a simple “thank-you” email.  My decision to do this was primarily based on my feeling and desire to be compassionate, if nothing else. And, when I said a simple thank-you, I am not exaggerating: 

Thank-you for the recent stridebox you sent. I hope you are doing well. 

I figured this response was simple enough to let her know that I received the gift and that I was “open” to whatever attempt she was making at reconnecting with me. 

By sending this thank-you, I feel like I was still leaving things in her hands. I was also sure that I wasn’t holding out hope that things would go in a certain direction. I really wasn’t sure what to expect after sending the message.  That was two days ago. 

Today I received yet another email from the company’s customer service department.  They explained that there was some kind of “migration error” and that my address was accidentally printed on a label during their monthly subscription process. They apologized for any confusion or inconvenience that their mistake may have caused. 

So, it turns out that Kay didn’t send me that gift… 

Initially I was angry at the company for realizing this error a few days after I inquired about it and thy causally replied that it was send at a gift.  But then I began wondering why they would have “investigated” the situation further… It made little sense. But I guess if Kay was just as confused about my thanking her for something she never sent, she likely also contacted them to sort out the situation. And, instead of contacting me herself to say she didn’t send it, she relied on the company to do it for her. 

I guess I could be mad at the company for their mistake… I could be angryat myself for being the one to break the silence after so long. However, I’m taking this as an opportunity to claim clarity over the situation. I no longer have the question or uncertainty over what this might have meant. Furthermore, I have also likely received some reinfocent over where she stands in relation to our old friendship: she has no interest in having any contact with me, even if it is something as simple as clarifying some kind of small mix-up. 

This is definitely another level of closure that I needed, despite the passage of time. 

(Although I will say that the universe has a twisted and delusional sense of humour…)

Confused

Before the falling out I had with my good friend Kay, she bought me a gift: A a 6-month subscription to a “runners box” called Stridebox.  Between the delivery of the 5th and the 6th box, we had our falling out.  I was supposed to receive the 6th box in December of 2014 but it didn’t come until January of 2015, a time when I really, really didn’t want to receive it.  When I saw that 6th box sitting on my kitchen counter that January day, I didn’t know what to do with it.  I didn’t really want it, I didn’t know if I should have thanked her for it despite not talking to her for almost 2 months, and I considered sending it back to her.  I ended up keeping it and never saying anything to her about it.

Since receiving that last Stridebox, I have had little to no contact with Kay.  I think I sent her a message on her birthday the next month, and she never replied.  I may have sent her a few “fundraising messages” through a mass email I sent out over last summer as I raised money to rappel down a building.  She never replied and she never donated to the charity. Last summer when I was forced to close my old blog, I first made it private and invited a select few people to view it.  To my surprise, Kay requested access to the private blog, but from what I could tell, she never visited it after that or requested information about my new blog… She was obviously interested in keeping up with happenings in my life.  Since then, I have been avidly working on moving forward from that point in my life and trying to get her off of my mind.  As some of you may know, this has not always been that easy for me.

Anyhow, can you imagine my confusion (among other various thoughts and emotions) upon finding a brand-new Stridebox sitting on my kitchen counter this afternoon?

Where did it come from?  Who sent it?  Was it Kay?  How can I find out?  What is the significance of this?

I decided to go to the website and make sure that this was a new box… after all, what if it was an old one that got lost in the mail and, just now, made it to my house (even though all 6 of the previous gift were accounted for)?  But no – the box I received is the April/16 box.

Why, after all this time, would I receive one of these boxes?

I am so confused.  I don’t know what to do or think about this.  I honestly can’t think of anyone else who would send me one of these…  If it was Kay who has decided to send this to me, what am I supposed to make of it?

 

Bumping the Blogging

I am not one for bump selfies, or bumpies (if you will).  However, I feel as though I need an explanation for my blogging absence. 

This right here, my friends, is the reason blogging hasn’t been happening: 

 Welcome to bump version 3.0. It is approximately 2/3 complete (or 27w5d if you like to be that kind of exact).

Because of the bump, I have been moving like a waddling senior citizen – yes, as awkward as that sounds. I have been collapsing into a heap of bump and water retentative discomfort the moment I’ve walked through the door after a long 11 hour day at work. 

For a good comic routine, you could watch me put on my compression stockings and SI support belt while sporting my extra-large scrub pants OVER the bump, on the mornings I am preparing for a long day in the OR. 
I’m sad to admit that this bump had taken over my life and has really bumped everything else to the bottom of the priority list, including blogging. 

The bump hasn’t all been bad, though. Let’s remember that there is a little baby princess growing in that bump (oh, that explains it all!) and there is some greatness in that alone. Kicks are getting stronger, love is growing immensely, and excitement is brewing all around. 

So, if there is any power that my brain has over the bump, I will try to get back into this blogging game with more seriousness than I have. I miss all this stuff!

Sick Day

I am taking a sick day today.  This is the first sick day I have ever taken at this job in 1.5 years, and really, the only sick day I think I have taken in all of my medical training career.  I always feel guilty about taking sick days.

Two days ago I was in the OR all day with difficult cases which required me to do a lot of pushing, pulling, and of course, a lot of standing.  At one point I was pushing on a lady’s belly so hard (because her baby was stuck at the c-section) that I actually felt something in my own belly – and I realized I had been pushing harder than my body can handle right now.  If my day had ended at 5:00pm like normal, I might have been okay.  But, I was on call.  By about 10:00pm, I was starting to have cramping.  It wasn’t bad, but it was starting up, my legs and body were also sore, and I still had more than 8 hours to go until my shift was over.  Things only got worse through the whole night.  I tried to sit when I could, but that didn’t seem to help too much.  I had to go to the OR again, where we had another difficult delivery (and again, I was doing the pushing).  By the time my shift was over, I was constantly cramping and in pain.  I couldn’t even stand up or walk without holding back tears.  I managed to get out of the hospital by 7:00am, and when I got into bed, I just started crying – I was hurting so much.

I eventually fell asleep and had a broken sleep until 3:00pm.  Every time I moved in my sleep, I would wake up from pain.  After getting out of bed and moving around, I noticed some cramping starting up again.  It was never as bad as the night before, but it didn’t let down all night.  Despite knowing that this was likely happening because I was “working too hard,” I went in to the hospital just to be safe.  Since I see women who come in with cramping at this same gestation all the time, I knew what they were going to do and what they were going to say to me (after all, these are my colleagues).  I also got up the courage to call in sick for today – so that I could give my body a good rest.  I’ve got a weekend of heavy call coming up starting tomorrow, and I’ve either been on call, working, or post-call (the day after call when we go home to sleep) every day since December 28th, including over last weekend.  My body is clearly not coping…

Every thing turned out okay at the hospital: my cervix is closed and I have no bladder infection.  My doctor told me to take it easy and get some rest.  I made it home by 11:30pm when I promptly went to bed.  I woke a few times in the night with some pain, and then when husband and kids got up and out of the house.  However, I seemed incapable of getting out of bed until 10:30am.  I feel like I could sleep even more… Maybe I should, seeing as how I took off this day to rest, and all.