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

lollipop

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?

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Spinning Life’s Tires

I have days like today, and weeks like this week, where I feel like I am spinning the tires of my life.  My day-to-day life is is routine, ordinary, and far from exciting.

I am acutely aware that my work is my training.  I have yet to reach a point in my career where I love my job.  I know this is because I am not in control of my daily choices.  Work, therefore, becomes a place I go because I have to.  It is paying my dues and eventually it will be over.  Just last month I was starting to get to a point where I felt like I was almost over the worst of it.  This year of residency – the workhorse year – where I we are expected to work like slaves, it is almost over. But then this week we started planning out the schedules for the next year of residency (which is supposed to start in July) and once my maternity leave is incorporated into the schedule, I won’t actually start that year of training until November/December.  I thought I was so much further ahead.

I know – I am taking off that time to have a baby:  Time I will have to spend at home with my new addition and the two boys I already feel I never see.  I shouldn’t complain, because it’s not time that I’m working, it’s time that I will be investing in something else… Something arguably more important than work.

This belly of mine, it continues to grow, yet it feels slow.  In two months this pregnancy will be over and life will never be the same.  But it scares me to think of this change.  Why did I decide to do this again?

76e54768477746b60f20cfb43bd40995It’s hard to see that life is moving forward when each day is a repeat of the last.  The mornings are rushed to get out of the house and start a 10 hour working day.  The evenings are a blur of kids activities, snack time, reading, bedtime routines, and exhaustion.  My bedtime quickly ensues.  And so, from day to day, nothing changes.  I feel like I’m stuck in a hamster wheel and that my efforts are taking me in circles.

How, exactly, do you step back to appreciate the way your life evolves over time?  How do you come to understand the role of the little things in the “big picture?”  I want to feel like I am moving forward every day:  I want something to change, to be momentous, and to remind my why I am here and living and working so hard.  What is the answer?

 

Biggest Change Yet

“Life is just one damn thing after another.”
~Elbert Hubbard

Wow.  That’s all I have to say, really.

Last year’s post was probably the most depressing one I have come across so far in November.  I was so sad and I was lamenting over how my friendship was beginning to fall apart.  I commented on how literal this quote felt at the time.

Ironically, this quote feels comical to me today… The way it was intended to be, I think.  Life is really just one damned thing after another.  And, it’s kind of funny, really.  Maybe it’s not always funny when you’re in the midst of the crap (like I was at this time last year), but it does’t get kind of humorous after a while, I think.  and, maybe that’s what keeps us going… that funny thought that “something else” just happened when we were least expecting it.  I don’t know if that makes any sense.

Life would be pretty boring if everything that happened was predictable and expected.  At least I think it would be…

Maybe that’s what I tell myself to make me feel better about my crazy, crazy life…

Sense Out of Sense

“Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism.  It’s not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”
~Václav Havel

 

It seems as though this quotation didn’t fit with my mindset last year, and it certainly doesn’t fit with how I am feeling now, either.  Or maybe, if I look at it from a different angle, it does make sense.

A few days ago I wrote a post about hope being a song that we sing in the depth of our being – something that never stops no matter what.  Right now I am tired and overworked and I feel like hope is the only thing I have – I hope that I get through all of this and that it will be worth it in the end.

Does that make sense?  I don’t know.  Maybe according to this quotation, it is supposed to makes sense.  Whether or not all of this hard work pays of in the end… hmm… I’m not sure if it makes sense for it to not turn out.  That would be a whole lot of “nonsense.”

The other day I met with one of the staff to go over my evaluations from a few months ago: For July and August.  Apparently everyone only had good things to say about me: I am hard working, I have good surgical skills, I work well under pressure, I don’t get stressed out, I make good assessments and plans, I know my limits, I don’t get bogged down in the minute details… but there was one thing that seemed to concern people – they were worried that I seemed unhappy.  I didn’t know what to make of that comment, or what to do with it.

I’m happy, but I’m not happy.  It’s hard to always be smiling and cheerful when you are tired and wondering if you’ve made all the right decisions in life.  Or more vaguely stated, when you’re not sure if everything in your life makes sense.  So what do I take away from that feedback session?  I should be happier when I’m at work, maybe?  Obviously I know that these last few months haven’t been easy for me, and there is a reason I see a psychologist on a regular basis.  Overall, I didn’t know what to say.  I enlightened her on the whole “people at work found my blog and I was criticized and harassed online because of it and everyone at work was talking about it behind my back” situation that happened in the middle of July.  I told her how I completely shut down at that point because I didn’t know who I could trust to talk to about anything, even something as simple as a night with my kids.  Maybe that contributed to it… I don’t know.  Or maybe it’s just my personality… maybe that’s it!

Regardless, nothing ever makes sense.  I feel like I am blindly floating around with the hope that in the end everything will fall into place… some kind of place.

Oh, Eleanor

“Do what you feel in your heart to be right –
for you will be criticized anyway.
You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”

~Eleanor Roosevelt

From The Old Blog, November 12, 2014:

Eleanor Roosevelt has got to be my most favorite woman in history.  I don’t know much about her, but anything that I ever find written by her or about her always makes a solid and lasting impression on me.  This quotation, while I have come across it before, has probably never meant as much to me as it does now.  If I look back at all the events and interactions that took place in my life leading up to this present moment, it occurs to me that I often did what I felt to be the the right thing.  I truly believe that.  Unfortunately, I have been criticized in some of the harshest ways (in my opinion).  And, what if along the way I did the opposite?  Well, I would have likely been criticized too.

More than ever I feel this quotation to be true and accurate.  I have had my fair share (and I’m sure there is more to come) on being damned for doing something I should have or haven’t done – The old “Damned if you Do and Damned if you Don’t” paradigm.  I’ve realized what it all comes down to in the end, is doing exactly what you feel to be the right thing to do in that situation.  What is going to make you feel the best about yourself?  What is going to make you happiest in the end? What values and believes do you want to stand for and represent?

Too often our fears of criticism and prosecution get in our way of making the right choice.  I have to admit: after everything that I’ve been through in the past year and a half, including the discovery, criticism, and backlash of my old blog (and now my decision to start over), I have sometimes made a decision to do something that didn’t feel right just to avoid causing problems for myself.  Maybe in the end it is the right decision for me because I am saving myself from trouble… Who knows?

I have sometimes overcome the fear of criticism  by simply convincing myself that the excuse for not doing what I feel to be right is just not justified.  It is hard to not pull back out of fear, but sometimes it is harder to push forward through the fear, especially when you’ve experienced the ultimate criticism.  As always, Eleanor Roosevelt has the best and most simple solution: just do it anyway, because it will be wrong (and possibly right) no matter what it is you choose to do.

And just for fun, here are a few of Eleanor Roosevelt’s other quotations that I love:

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”
We are afraid to care too much, for fear that the other person does not care at all.”
We gain strength and courage and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.”

Family is The Only Rock

“It’s a good thing to have the props pulled out from under us occasionally.  It gives us some sense of what is rock under our feet, and what is sand.”

~Madeleine L’Engle

 

From The Old Blog, November 11, 2014:

 The only rocks I have live 500 Km away from me.  And while I only have a small umber of supportive rocks, at least if I had stayed where I was, I would still have the sand too.  Either way, The people whom I predicted would be my rocks – well, they have been my rocks.

Bedside Flowers

Bedside Flowers – A photo from last year’s post of some flowers a good friend left on a bedside table for me when I went to visit her.  I am still good friends with this wonderful woman.  While she is not technically my family, I would still consider her one of my “rocks.”

The theme of the past few days really seems to contradict what I wrote in this small segment from last year’s post.  The irony of this whole situation (and possibly the utility of this November exercise) is that the things people I thought were my rocks, really are not my rocks.  Those are the people who live 500Km away from me.  While there are some of those people who are still in my life, albeit in a smaller sense, I have come to realize that there are more important people, people who live so much closer to me, who are my real rocks.  The only real rocks, which will always be there for me, and which have supported me this past year, are my family: my husband and my two kids.  I love them.

 

I Am The Leftovers

“Oh, my friend, it’s not what they take away from you that counts, it’s what you do with what you have left.”

~Hubert H. Humphrey

 

It has almost been a year since I hit “rock bottom,” or “the bottom of the barrel,” or whatever expression you use to describe the worst and most dark moments of life.  When I wrote last year’s post based on this quotation, I actually thought I was there, and I didn’t possibly think it could get any worse.  A few weeks later and I lost one of the most important friends and supports I had in my life.  I realize that it could have gotten even worse from there… but it didn’t.  Thank Goodness.

I spent much of my time and energy last year focussing on everything that was taken away.  I realize now, that this was likely one of the reasons this friendship was stolen away from me.  While I could post quotations about how real friend see you though everything, or that they are the ones who are still standing by you when you come out of those dark moments, and passively lay blame on a person who was actually nothing more than a shitty friend, I won’t.  I also won’t put myself down and take the blame that was handed to me and convince myself that “if only” I hadn’t been such a bad person (or something along those lines), I would still have her friendship.  There are two sides to every situation, and I’m merely realizing that I was negative, and broken, and maybe not working as hard as I could have at picking up the pieces.  Anyhow, I digress.

Last year I was at least thankful that something I “had left” was this friendship that was going to support me and see me through.  But then I lost that, too.  So, really, what did I have left in the end?

Here’s what I had (and still have, mind you):
My husband and my kids, who have loved me unconditionally and are here for me always.
My willpower, which saw me run a half-marathon this year… something I never though I would do.
My dedication to my self and my values, which has (somehow) led me to the decision for a third baby (despite my already crazy life)
My work ethic and my dedication to my job, which has not wavered and sees me succeed on a daily basis, even when it doesn’t seem as much.

Do you notice what all of this things I had have in common?  They are all about ME.  They are all parts of me; my traits; the best parts of the person I am.  Those are things that are left even when it feels like I have lost everything else.  After everything is gone, regardless of whether is was just or fair, in the end there is only me.  The question becomes, then: What can you do for yourself when everything else is gone?

Happiness Is…

“Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.”

~Guillaume Apollinaire

From The Old Blog, November 9, 2014:

Happiness encompasses so many different things: It can have different meanings for different people, and we all measure our level of happiness against varying standards.  I like to think that my happiness is multifactorial and that there isn’t just one thing that ultimately defines whether or not I’m happy.  With so many different pursuits happening simultaneously, it is often difficult to know (or define) a moment when you have achieved “complete happiness” in life.

 

In last year’s blog post I wrote about a recollection of  a happy moment with a friend.  It was a moment that I had forgotten about, likely because I have tried to stop thinking about this friend.  As I read through the post and thought about how I was going to write this post, I though that there was no way that I could describe as happy of a moment that I’ve had in the last year.  I haven’t come close to making as good, meaningful friendships in this new life that I am living.  I am overworked and spread thin by my job.  And, I hardly have enough time to spend with my family.

But, then I stopped thinking about all these “big” things and thought about all the smaller moments, like the other day when I woke up post call, sat on the couch with my kids and cuddled with them to watch a movie.  I had one of them on either side of me, one arm around each of them, and their heads resting on my chest.  I was happy.  It was a relaxing, non-stressful, special, and enjoyable moment for the three of us.  In that moment, I was happy.  It’s so easy to forget about those small moments of happiness when we are always fixated on the bigger things in like that we believe are supposed to make us happy.

When I pause to think about more of those small moments of happiness, I find that they are times that are easily overlooked and sometimes missed.  Another great example is from a few months back when I got my first positive pregnancy test result: I felt a fleeting surge of excitement and there was a smile on my face that couldn’t be stolen away from me.  It only lasted for a few minutes before all my fears, anxieties, and irrational thoughts broke into my mind.  Regardless, in that moment… I was happy.

Last year’s discussion of this quotation involved an important memory of an old friend, and that memory is no longer something that makes me happy.  This year I’ve really come to realize that the little moments that cause me to pause and feel true happiness are smaller, everyday instances that mostly involve my family and kids.  Despite the differences between this year and last, the end of last year’s post still stands true:

It is those moments of real, true happiness that remind us that life is wonderful.  If we worry too much or we try to hard, it is easy to miss those little moments.  But we live for those.  We work for those.  And, those are the moments that remind us to keep moving forward.