A Good Tree Cannot Bear Bad Fruit

A few weeks ago, I was in the midst of “the perfect storm.”

I was still pregnant and close to giving birth to my (first) daughter.  I had just received yet another insulting form of rejection from a person whom I have kept in my life for far too long.  I spent that week’s therapy session discussing the role of this person in my life, the emotional importance her relationship served, and how welcoming my daughter into the world would likely change how I felt about that relationship.  Then, at the end of that week I attended our new church where the message of the sermon was about Matthew 7:18 – “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit.”

I listened closely to the pastor that Sunday.  He said, “When things aren’t what they used to be, you have to change what you’re used to doing.” 

People love truth, and people love authenticity.  There is a low tolerance for the inauthentic in our society.  The tree that bears fruit is the perfect example of the difference between the authentic and the inauthentic.  Just as a tree grows and develops fruit over time, we as people grow and develop our habits and behaviours.  Just as a person would stop picking and eating rotten fruit from a bad tree, they would also stop dealing with or interacting with a person who routinely showed poor or inauthentic behaviours.

I used to think that I was the person with the poor our inauthentic behaviours: Why would someone be so hurtful towards me and make such an effort to exclude me from their life?  I have worked hard over the years to overcome this thought, attributing it to my low self-esteem that developed from my difficult childhood and poor relationships with my parents.  It may have taken years to believe this truth, but I am not a bad tree – I am a good tree that bears good fruit.  I really am.

However, even good trees have branches that are heavy and burdensome – branches that are overgrown and don’t produce any fruit.  These branches take up the resources and energy of the tree and prevent it from producing abundant fruit.  This idea reminded me of the advice I received from a fellow gardener last summer when I asked her about her fruitful tomato plants.  She told me to trim off all of the branches on my tomato plants that were not growing tomatoes.  This way the plant would stop wasting energy on the branches that weren’t growing fruit and instead would use that energy to grow bigger, more healthy tomatoes.  I used her advice and sure enough, my tomatoes grew bigger and faster.

If a tree is a metaphor for my life, it is only natural that I would have these heavy, burdensome branches that are weighing me down.  It is only natural, then, that I should need to prune my own boughs with the hopes of removing those parts of my life that are only causing me grief, so that I can concentrate more on the best parts of my life.  The pastor continues on in his sermon, addressing the need for pruning in our lives.  Like the gardener’s advice for my tomato plants, he quoted another part of the scripture: “The farmer cuts off branches that bear no fruit and prunes the ones that do bear fruit so that they will be more fruitful.”  He continued on, addressing all of us and saying rather matter-of-factly: “Most of us know exactly what areas of our lives need to be pruned.”

Despite all this advice, pruning is not easy; It is the targeted removal of something from our lives.  It isn’t fun – it cuts to the core, it is invasive, painful, and it is cutting something out of your life that needs to be removed.

For 18 months I have let myself hold onto the idea or illusion that Kay would come back into my life and that we would, gain, have some kind of friendship.  The timing of this sermon immediately after the mix-up/rejection from Kay was nothing more than perfect.  And, what better time to prune something so heavy and fruitless from my life than right before I prepare to welcome my daughter into my life.

My relationship with Kay initially sprouted from a need to fill in the missing mother-daughter relationship in my life.  It may have worked for a small while.  But there is never a replacement for the real thing – and now I am at the beginning of the best most real opportunity to develop this type of relationship… With my very own daughter.

 

 

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The Oxytocin Effect

If you google “Oxytocin,” you will learn that it is a hormone that has many functions.  Primarily, it is the hormone responsible for contractions during labour, as well as for milk let-down while nursing.  It also plays a major role in human bonding – between newborns and mothers, between men and women, and even between friends.  It is quite an amazing and versatile hormone, and all of these hormonal effects has me thinking about what can happen when the different hormone effects cross paths and boundaries.

After giving birth 9 days ago, I immediately felt strong feelings of kinship and admiration towards the doctor who delivered El.  I found that in the days immediately post-partum, I was sad to think that I wouldn’t be going to see her anymore for my weekly appointments.  This seemed like a strange response for me to have, given that most of our appointments were a quick 5-10 min and were really just about the “business” of my pregnancy.  I did choose this doctor out of all the obstetricians in the city because she has a good reputation of being liked by her patients, she is one of the few people who does all her own deliveries 24 hours a day, and I also really enjoy learning from her and working with her as a resident.  Despite these reasons, my feelings towards her after my delivery felt out of proportion to what they should have been.  You could almost say that the feelings I had were bordering on those of maternal admiration, and I was mourning the loss of this type of care and concern in my life.

Interestingly, I don’t remember having such strong feelings of maternal admiration towards her before going into labour.  They only started after my delivery.  The timing of these feelings got me thinking about how the hormonal changes in my body may have affected my emotional attachment towards my doctor while she delivered El.  I also thought about how my feelings and admiration towards my old friend Kay developed after she delivered A all those years ago.  Finally, there is the most important consideration in all of this: the lack of close maternal bond and relationship with my own mother throughout my life.  All of these factors got me thinking about how the high levels of oxytocin in my body while I was in labour may have affected the “relationship building” pathways in my mind; perhaps my subconscious mind was trying to lay down or replace the maternal bonding-like relationship that I never really had growing up.  It makes me wonder if I would have had this response if I developed a normal mother-daughter relationship with my own mother as a child.

I have been trying hard to reflect on how I’ve been feeling in the last week and a half.  Specifically, I have tried to separate out logical from illogical feelings and evaluate what would be considered “appropriate” or “inappropriate” in terms of “normal human behaviour.  I have also been reflecting on what parts of my subconscious still need work and attention.  It is a little disappointing to think that after all my years of therapy trying to overcome the issues surrounding my childhood (and my relationship with my mother specifically), deep down there is still something missing.  Perhaps the fact that I am able to identify this change in feeling and attribute it to “something” suggests that I have made some progress in my therapy, but I’m not really sure.  Regardless, I will continue to reflect on my feelings and figure out a way to navigate through this mess and make it meaningful – both for my emotional recovery, as well as my future working relationship with my doctor (who will continue to be a teacher and mentor for me in my training).

Starting Again

We both ordered a diet coke. I secretly love when other people order diet drinks… They get it.

This was the first time we planned a meeting outside of the office and I’m sure neither of us knew what to expect. She’s off on her maternity leave now, so we figured it was a good time to meet.

Before we got too far into our casual conversation, I started with the awkward conversation: “I thought more about what we talked about last time we met… About transferring my care to another doctor. It’s not often easy to find friends who are in this medical-motherhood lifestyle and it just seemed ironic how our private lives kind of meshed and it would be great to be friends. But, You are also a really great doctor and didn’t want you to feel like you were obligated to be my friend if you transferred my care to one of your colleagues.”

I first met her just over a year ago when she was the only female GP I could find in my area who was accepting new patients. I knew instantly that I liked her. She’s my age. Over time I learned that she has kids the same age as mine – we kind of bonded over the challenges that come with kids of this age. She was open to me about her struggles balancing life as a doctor, a mother, and the wife of a professional husband.

One night I was at a community association meeting and I met a man with the same last name as her. “My wife is a GP at [the clinic at the hospital where I work], maybe you know her.”

Spring time came and we started seeing her at the community playground with her kids. We walked past her house on our way home from our community garden. We shared our bounty of green beans and snap peas. We mingled together at a community association BBQ where we laughed over virgin margaritas and watched our husbands talk about who-knows-what.

The last time I saw her in the office I talked to her about my recent thoughts about possibly changing specialities to achieve better work/life balance in the future. I asked her if she would be willing to meet with me to talk about what her work/life balance is like and what her road in her career choice has been like. Of course, she was more than willing to meet with me, and that’s when we briefly talked about whether there was more value to me in a friendship or a therapeutic relationship. At the time I didn’t know what to think. Becoming friends with someone who used to be my doctor… Well, it was complicated last time. I just said that was wasn’t sure, but that I also didn’t want to make her feel uncomfortable. She gave me her cell phone number and I left the office. I waited until I knew she was on her maternity leave before I contacted her.

We had a great time at lunch. I wished her all the best in her upcoming delivery and we parted ways. We have no plans to meet up again, but I know it’s only a matter of time before we run until each other again. And, it will be at least a year before she’s back in her office.

Hopefully this friendship turns out a little differently than before.