Continued from last week…
My objective for the coaching session was to figure out where I really want to put my energy for the foreseeable future. I felt essentially torn between my paraprofessional activities (writing and speaking on physician health, patient-physician relationship, bridging silos in medicine) and my nascent political activism (community involvement, calling and writing to Congress, thinking of running for office someday??). It felt like I should choose, and yet something told me they could be integrated.
Highlights from the call:
What is your goal for the end of this session?
Clarity and direction; movement. Readiness to act.
How close are you already?
How will you know when you have it?
Hard to describe… It will be a dual certainty, like choosing furniture, knowing whether I like a person: cognitive and visceral. It will feel decisive.
How are you feeling now?
Overwhelmed, distracted. [Recall Doug the dog, in the movie, “Up”—Squirrel!] OMG there is too much to keep up with: Healthcare, Russia, immigration, refugees, border security, Russia, EPA, what-the-hell-did-he-just-say-and-what-the-hell-does-that-mean?, racism, misogyny, intolerance, Russia, free speech, NIH funding, science, climate change, women’s rights, the Persisterhood, congressional seats up for grabs across the country, and oh yeah, the rest of my actual life. Every day five new things to look up, articles on both left and right to compare notes, filtering facts from spin, trying to stake independent and educated positions backed by evidence! GAAAAHH!
What would happen if you didn’t do that?
I do what do, spend hours a day reading and trying to engage in discussion (in person and on social media), in order to be credible in my conversations, to engage from a place deeper than superficial rhetoric or simple emotional reactivity. My big fear: If I don’t do it, I will become one of those loud-mouthed, uninformed ranters who has no evidence for my broad-brush, oversimplified generalizations and ad hominem attacks.
What is the 98% truth about that?
Not likely to happen. That’s just not me, I don’t do that. I always look for evidence to back up what I say, and when I don’t have it, I own up. If I don’t know what I’m talking about, I listen more and ask more questions, or I don’t engage until I have something useful to contribute.
And the 2% truth?
There is still a risk. I may spew sometimes—when I get triggered and e(motionally)-hijacked. I feel particularly susceptible right now, with all of my core values and our generation’s social progress seemingly under attack.
AND, I never live here. I may wallow a few days (1-2 weeks, max), stewing in cynicism and resentment. But I always rise up, usually with the help of others, with writing, and with time. I always come out having learned something, and resolving to apply the learning (usually about myself and my relationships) to whatever comes next.
In reviewing my time spent on my screens each day, I realize most of it edifies me and connects my mental dots of current events, social science, and personal meaning. I know not to spend time on baseless rants and otherwise rhetorical opinion pieces. I choose articles with links to data, history, and primary sources, and ones that challenge my thinking or oppose my positions (sometimes). I look for nuance, complexity, examples of collaboration and compassionate leadership. This is what I spend my time and energy on; it broadens my perspectives and integrates the knowledge and ideas I already have. It fosters my own creativity and philosophy. This is who I am.
It’s the blog.
This is what I want to spend my energy on. It’s my platform, my thing. All the paraprofessional stuff I do was born of this: What gives doctors meaning is the relationships we get in our work—mostly with patients, but also with one another and society at large—status, respect, contribution. Physician, wellness/resilience, the intersection of health and leadership, bridging silos (physicians, nurses, pharmacists, insurers, hospital administrators)—it’s all about relationships. And, so is politics.
Therefore, I will use this blog for all of it. I can share my letters to Congress. I can continue to write about physician-patient relationship. I know I have written about this before, but somehow it required some reinforcement: It’s all connected, and it’s all me.
Of course, that’s what really holds me back (yup, written about that before, too). Fear of attack, rejection, overwhelming engagement obligation and getting sucked into negative, counterproductive exchanges with strangers. Fear that I have nothing useful to say. Someone else has already said it better and reached more people. Who am I to think that my words matter? It’s all so paralyzing.
I got this.
I’m ready. It’s time. Because: Nothing I say or write, at work or on Facebook or anywhere, is anything I would not say or write in public. Integrity is important to me—to be the same person in private that I am in public. I’ve been practicing, and getting better, as evidenced by the civil exchanges I facilitate on my Facebook page (which I will also share more of), bringing together friends from different walks of life in meaningful conversation. We exchange important ideas, always concluding cordially, all relationships intact and even, I daresay, strengthened.
And, my blog is my space. I get to manage who comes on (into my house), and I make the rules for how we engage (no poop flinging). I don’t comment on public sites like Washington Post or New York Times, or large Facebook groups (usually) because that is like leaping into a flash mob of the worst kind. There is no meaningful exchange or benefit for anyone. Here, threads can be more personal, meaningful, and transformative.
Shift the Boundaries.
I can push my fearful limits and present myself more confidently to the world. I can choose to plant more color and texture in my front yard. I can also dig it up and throw it out if I realize it clashes with the house. It’s all good. And I must also mind the costs, especially to my family. So, I can bring them closer by putting the screens out of arms’ reach when I’m with them. Easier said than done, and definitely worth the effort.
Focus on the WHY.
It’s all about cultivating productive, contributory relationships–first with myself, then with others, and then between all of us, for more peace, love, and joy for us all.
If this is where I want to put my energy, then I want to have something to show for it. Plus, it’s therapeutic. Writing calms me, which I need now more than ever, as you can see. For now I can stop chasing conference presentations, formal leadership roles, Daily Actions to prove I am an engaged citizen. I can simply write when I am moved—and I am always moved—and share it here.
See you next week!
It’s amazing how we, really, already know the answer to our befuddlement. We know, but don’t trust. We know, but need the Other to verify. We know, but don’t allow that the answer can be so simple.
I feel like congratulations are in order. Coming to this place of clarity is a relief and a starting gun.
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Hi Sandy Sue, and thank you!
Yes, amazing, and totally funny. It feels sheepish to share, and then again that’s what this vulnerability practice is all about… And, I’m off! Until my next episode of stymiedness… 😜It’s all good, just part of the journey. 😊
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Thanks, Cathy. It was both enjoyable and thought-provoking to follow your questions and explorations to your (most welcome) conclusion. Of course you will not become one of those “loud-mouthed, uninformed ranters” – such folk rarely take the time to question, nor are they open to new ideas. They are strangers to self-awareness.
Fear’s a biggie for me, too, and I try to follow my own advice (not always successfully). Instead of focusing on all the bad things that might happen (rejection, attack, being boring or irrelevant), I try to focus on what’s the BEST that could happen: I may learn something new, I may have a great exchange of ideas with someone interesting, I may write or say something that matters to someone, maybe I can help move the needle in the right direction….eventually the world changes. My fears seem unimportant.
I’m so glad your conclusion was to continue to express yourself and find meaning in your blog. I always look forward to your thoughts, and will look forward to seeing them again next week.
Thank you so much, as always, for your support! I very much like the ‘focus on the best thing that could happen,’ I will post that above my desk. 😉 And I’m proud that I just deleted 6 articles I had flagged to read from earlier today. Not necessary! Yay! 😀
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