Thursday, June 05, 2014

and it's getting nearer, soon it will all be true

As the Monty Python quote goes, 'I'm not dead yet.'

Real life pummeled me but good the last few months, the final push before residency ends intermingled with personal drama. Distracting me from the 'what's it all about' that usually occupies my mind at times like these. Because in my life, because of these odd back roads I've taken to get to where I am, there have been a lot of beginnings and endings, or chapters, if you will.

I've had this theory, and maybe it's a theory that only applies to my life, but I think there are but a few people you can hope to carry along with you as precious from every chapter of your life. I've always held this belief, but I think it's become more nuanced for me now. Because there are people in my heart from different chapters in my life nowadays who I haven't spoken to in years- and that is okay, because such are the realities of life, time zones, delineating circumstances.

Even though I've always had this theory, I think I expected to come away from medical school with a solid handful of people that were mine. Instead, it turned out to be one person, and it wasn't the person I expected. But it was the person who probably understood me (and still understands me) the best from those days. There were other people to whom I thought I was closer. But they faded away, or turned out to be false, or whatever it was that actually happened- they were gone in the end.

When I started residency, I was more wary. I expected to just keep my head down and work. I didn't take stock of the other residents the way I did in medical school. The work was plenty enough to keep me busy, too busy to worry about likemindedness and comraderie. And then- it just happened. And still, it took a while, it took some evolution, some shuffling of chairs, but in the end, there are more than I expected who really get me.

Sometimes I wonder how much of that is the world, and how much of it is the barriers I put up against the world. I've always been someone who gets blue and brooding when people don't understand me, even while knowing that part of the reason is that I don't explain myself, I don't show myself. I think the maintenance of this blog over the years is probably a perfect example of that- I very much doubt most people who know me IRL would guess that I spend (well, used to spend) time writing, contemplating, musing. And that has always been okay, because I haven't necessarily needed someone to understand everything about me.

Yet, I have to say, it's something. It's one thing when you're in a romantic relationship, and someone puts up with all your nonsense. But it's quite another to have friends who have seen you at your worst, when you're really on the verge of falling over the edge, and for them to have this breathtaking grace of being there for you. Not just that- but letting you be there for them too. The latter is something I've realized more and more as I've gone through my medical training. It may be the only thing I've really, truly come away with, this bit of wisdom- that you are doing your loved ones a favor when you let them help you in any small way.

I suppose that's what I have learned from taking care of patients these past three years of residency too. A lot of residents get burned out, talk about how thankless the work is, how the benefits have now been outweighed by all the burdens of medicine. I get that. But I have spent time talking to my patients, talking to their families, discussing impossible decisions about the last days of their lives, and I never feel like it's a weight on my heart. It's a strange profession these days. Patients have increasingly unrealistic expectations of their doctors, and doctors in turn have unrealistic expectations of their patients. I've realized that so often, patients actually are really in charge of their own health. And I've also realized that they deserve the credit more than I do, more often than not. But none of that really matters to me in the end. I just like my job. I like the being there. They need me, I need them, whether either of us likes that.

Anyway. I'm getting my head screwed back in straight, and I'll try to blog more. But it occurs to me that the blog has been this strange chapter that is separate from the rest of my life, that intersects other chapters, neither a prequel or a sequel, almost just the same tale told in a different voice. And this chapter too- I'm lucky to know some of you from this chapter, I am sorry if I have taken some of you for granted, but you mean a lot to me too.