A Holiday Break

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Happy Holidays, friends!

December flies, does it not??  What is it today, the 18th?  Holy cow!  The kids are off for winter break, holiday greetings have overtaken snail mail (Yippeeeee!!), and now that NaBloPoMo has concluded, I am back to scrounging for blog post topics again.  How fascinating…

2016, what a long, strange, CRAZY trip!  The moments (periods?) of shock and disdain stand out, but there were also times of profound inspiration, learning, and connection.  2015 did not see any holiday greetings from us, a lapse after at least 15 consecutive years of not only composed letters with photos and personal notes on every one, but also often a craft of some sort.  I was just overwhelmed with other stuff to do, though now I can’t recall what all that stuff was.  This year I contemplated the annual year-in-review letter.  I have also proofed a bookmark on vistaprint.com.  But the mass-produced, conveyor belt greeting feels unsatisfying right now.

We have all witnessed the escalating anger, division, and destruction of relationships, both individual and between groups, these last 12 months (really, much longer?).  The emotional hijacking took me over for a while, too.  After all we’ve been through, I feel an urgent need to connect with friends and loved ones more intentionally, personally, and directly.  Many on my ‘list’ have known me most of my life, and I want to take time to write to them.  I used to write them all the time–I went to college with 100 postage stamps freshman year, and used them all.  I feel a need to tell people one by one this year how much they mean to me, how they have shaped the person I am today, what I admire about them, how I see them contributing to our world.  I want to encourage them, hold up their optimism and hope.  Most of all, I mean to reinforce my connections with them, so we may all help one another soldier forth in a world of increasing uncertainty.

We cannot control what others say or do.  But we can call out the hatred, illuminate and inform the ignorance, and stand up for core values of love, connection, inclusion, equality, compassion, and justice.  We can do this all the better if we support one another in action.  That support must be cultivated, tended, and protected.

So I’ll take a break from regular blogging for a while, to write by hand (with fun-colored gel pens on cute cards, and lots of stickers).  We’ll see if I break my tardy record for holiday greetings, St. Patrick’s Day…  I think it’s okay–never too late to make a meaningful connection.

Please share your intentions for the new year here, if you like–the community I have found here lifts me every time I open the window or the app.  Thank you for your engagement and encouragement, and Best Wishes to you all this season!

 

 

On Journeying Together

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NaBloPoMo 2016, Letters to Patients, Day 30

To Patients Who Journey With Me:

It is my privilege and my honor.

Well here we are, my friends, we made it!  30 posts in 30 days, woooo hoooooooooo!!

I had 30 topics all lined up on Halloween, and I think I used 6 of them.  How fascinating!  Looking back, I’m pretty proud of the content this month.  It all came from places of true feeling and contemplation, and I tried my best to make it relevant to the physician-patient relationship.  I meant to write more cogently about policy and operations, maybe illuminate more of the physician’s experience, to help patients understand our perspectives.  I wonder if that is more appropriate for long form writing, or even not writing at all, more like panel discussion or podcast?

Some of you have followed, liked, and commented all the way through—thank you so much.  After all, what is a blog if nobody reads it?  The feedback has held me up and kept me going.  It’s not so different from my relationships with actual patients.  Some are superficial and short-lived.  But most have a true human connection, and potential for integrative growth over time.  My heart is warmed whenever you inquire about my children with genuine caring.  When you remember my extracurricular projects and congratulate my successes, I feel respected.  Heck when you just notice that my hair is longer, I know you see me!

Believe me, I’m not in this just for the science, or the money, or the prestige, or the teaching.  I’m in this to know you, my patient—and for you to know me.  I know there are some who see me as expendable, exchangeable.  Their interactions with me feel purely transactional.  And that’s okay; everybody needs something different.  But I could not long survive a practice of only such relationships.  No, that would kill my soul for sure.  I live for the connections, I say.  I learn from every one of you, and you make me better.

So thank you for journeying with me.  It’s a long, strange trip, eh?  The path winds, the weather shifts, and times change.  But as long as we go together, I’m all in.

 

On Community

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NaBloPoMo 2016, Letters to Patients, Day 10

To Patients Who Feel Alone Sometimes:

Who holds you up?

Day 2 post-election, it is still positively surreal.  Monday night I saw Facebook friends post passionate, emotional, sometimes desperate pleas, urging their friends to vote one way or another.  I also saw friends acknowledging the long, strange trip, looking forward to the next chapter, expressing both relief and trepidation.  A cloud of separation hung over my heart as I read some of my friends’ words then. 

Something inside urged me to contact a high school classmate.  We did not know each other well back then, and we didn’t always like each other.  But I always felt a mutual respect.  She does not post about politics; I do…a lot.  I know we differ in many of our positions and views.  I also know her to be thoughtful, kind, ethical, and just.  I know she has a lot going on in her life right now.  Our Facebook friendship has grown the past few years, and more and more I feel a cosmic connection.  I am meant to know this person again and better, in this later phase of life.  So I messaged her privately, just to tell her I was thinking of her.  I sent hope, and wishes that we could sit down over tea, somewhere cozy, and share our lives—slowly, thoughtfully, kindly, lovingly.  Turns out my little message helped hold her up yesterday.  On this day of anxiety and tension, hope and uncertainty, this long-distance connection gives me strength and peace.  It reminds me of a recent article by the Dalai Lama on our need to be needed.

I’ve said and written so often that I’m so grateful for my tribe(s), the communities that surround and support me in everything I do.  When I see patients, I make it a point to ask about emotional support networks. They don’t have to be vast or deep.  They just need to be strong and reliable.  No matter what our station, our illness, our cultural origin, or our political leaning, we live longer, healthier, happier, and easier when we connect with others.  It can be many, often, and deep.  It can be few and intermittent.  It just has to be meaningful and enough.

Lastly, supportive relationships function best when they are also reciprocal.  I don’t mean quid pro quo.  I mean mutual, shared, communal, uncalculated support.  I ask patients, “Do you have enough people you know you can turn to, people who will be there for you, in times of personal crisis?”  I want so much for you to answer without hesitation, “Yes, definitely, no question.”  Then I can relax about your health.  You (all) got this.