‘One of the ways that Gil adds value and makes important contributions is…’ That is the assignment, to reflect upon when we are at our best. We were to solicit opinions from our colleagues, family and friends about moments when they had seen us at our best. Asking for positive feedback from people that know you well, why is that so difficult, why is it so frightening? Yet, here is was, that sense of trepidation as I pressed send, that sense of unease, of disquiet. It felt really wrong to ask for positive feedback from people, really wrong.
‘I am curious about your use of the word allow.’
My breath caught in my throat, tightness grabbed at my heart, and for a second the sense of vertigo was there, I was on the precipice looking down. What had she seen, what had I shown, and why did she hone in on that phrase.
‘I want to offer you some words… notice what happens when you hear them…. It’s OK to allow yourself to be loved.’
I turned in, felt the instability in my seat, felt myself twisting just a bit as I looked into that place where it felt scary.
The moon, large, yellow, rises slowly above the trees, sounds of the jungle can be heard in the early evening, strange and foreign to my ears. Sitting on the cement flooring that marks the porch edge for the school we are building, I have a moment of clarity, my place on the earth. I see it on a globe, glowing brightly, so far away from everything I know. Rising with the moon, an urge in my heart, to walk into the forest, disappearing from all that is known, into a place where everything familiar to me no longer exists. Into a place where everything unnecessary, unessential, is stripped away.
My heart tapped upon my shoulder this morning, asking me to get up earlier than usual, it had something important to show me. I tried to ignore the request, but it was being asked with such yearning, I found myself getting up and walking down the stairs. The alarm that would wake me was still several hours away, the house was in that deep quiet darkness, when the moon has set, and the sun is still hours from rising. Sitting on my cushion, turning my attention in, a longing within me began to grow, so I settled to listen to the story that my Heart had to tell.
“Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth”
― Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times
I am struck by the honesty of this quote, there is a deep truth within this understanding, there is a fear in moving, edging closer to the deep truth that lays within us all. This has been the 11th block of a 15-block training in Hakomi Mindful Somatic Psychotherapy, and as per usual, I am sitting at the Newark Airport feeling a little shaken up by the process.
Lately, I have been seeing a lot of writing from Pamela Wible MD and today I re-read her article about doctor suicides. This time in the Washington Post. As I read through these articles, and reflect upon how medicine has changed during my lifetime, I am struck by the degree to which I have seen the humanity scrubbed out of the system. I think about the times during my career when I thought, ‘you know, it is not worth it anymore to do this, I should just go.’ .....
“He had great faith in you, and you let him down…” These words landed, heavily, in the middle of my chest. These words brought pain, they were a tool to bring pain, and they did their job well. I cannot know the state of mind within the one who spoke those words, but I imagine they came from a place of great worry, great pain, and great anger. I have spoken words like this myself on occasions, more than I would care to remember at any given moment, and when I have used words like this with others, they were designed to hurt. It is from this place of seeing the pain, that I began to wonder about why anyone would choose to be a physician, and I realized it’s because no one really knows what they’re saying yes to when they pursue this career.
And so, I find myself wondering what to write in this missive. The year has been good, full of love and learning, growth and understanding, and yet in this moment, we are sad, we are mourning, we are dancing with grief. It is strange how a recent event can colour the feelings that you carry for a year, how a single moment in time can mark that year in your mind, how a single event becomes the moment that may name that year. It happens all the time… oh, that was when Sam was born, that was the year I started medical school, that was the year we got married, the year when grandmother died, these single moments are large enough in our psyche that they colour the memory of the year.
Sometimes Medicine wants more than you can give, and there are many times in the past when I’ve given Medicine everything I had and a little bit more. These days, I give medicine what it deserves and nothing more. I don’t spend myself into debt for Medicine, I don’t empty my emotional banks to make sure that Medicine is full, I do what I can and when I get to the end of what I have to give Medicine, I stop.
He is watching me as I go about my morning. I can feel him just below the surface, noticing what I am up to. He is ever curious, this little one, and lately he has not been far away. I can hear his questions about what I am doing, why I am doing it, and what it all means. He is always asking ‘Why?’ and as often as I can, I work to answer his questions. He did not used to visit me at all, and for the longest time, I did not know he existed.