Essay: A Plea for Small Moments

Mouse Talks

It is said that life is not made up of the number of breaths we take, but the number of moments that take our breath away.

This is true.

It is also undeniably false.

How often are we to see the love of our life as a vision in white? How often are we to be that vision? Tell me how many times you’ve been in awe of a storm that shook the ground you stood upon. When was the last time a view made you realize your insignificance, or a song tore your soul and brought you to tears?

These moments are few, and quite possibly very far between. I wholeheartedly encourage you to seek those moments, to go through life breathless, but when taking stock of your successes and failures, when reviewing your life as a whole, forget not the little things.

All of life is comprised of…

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Perfect Timing

“It’s a little late to get started isn’t it?”

My Ninja Warrior coach asked me yesterday when I told him I had just graduated from medical school. The question caught me off-guard. I guess most people, if they were curious, have asked what I did before medical school. Then they ask, “Why did you change professions?”

I’m ready for this question. I have perfected my “elevator speech” for my colleagues, attending physicians, and new friends.

But, I wasn’t ready and my defensive answer went something like this: “Uh, I don’t know; not really.”

I had done all that I wanted to do in my career as a veterinarian and I was hungering for something more. So what if I had gone to medical school in my 20’s or 30’s? I would have missed so much in veterinary medicine, rich experiences that working two decades brings to life. My children would have had a different childhood. I wanted to be present for them and not distracted with another life-altering goal of my own when they were having their own challenges and experiences growing up. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss being fully present.

I loved my life before medical school. I loved my life during medical school, having the support of my family, friends and colleagues. I love my life after medical school, not quite knowing where my path will take me, but anticipating it with excitement.

I could have gone back to medical school then, but I didn’t really want to. I was happy, challenged, successful, feeling fulfilled in my career and in my life.
When the time was right, I did go back to school. I was ready. I achieved what I wanted to achieve in my career, in my relationships, in my health and well-being.

So, when I went back to school it was actually….perfect timing.

Changing My State Changes My Reality

Okay….this just happened….

In a nutshell…
I was having parking issues where I live. My landlady let me park in the garage without charge because I’m only going to be here for two more weeks,  and I work late and get home between midnight and 2:00 am. Aaaand it’s Chicago…

The challenge is that the spot is very tight and takes some maneuvering to get two cars in. My roommate and I had an agreement to let each other know about our schedules etc. so we could both park in there. Well today, he didn’t work which I didn’t realize, and since it is daytime I walked to my morning meeting at the hospital, leaving the car in the garage.

He called and complained to our landlady. I have to say, I was furious, peeved, ticked, angry…because she texted me and told me she wants the garage opener back and I have to park on the street. (I would love to park on the street, if there were any parking…at midnight I had to drive for 10-15 minutes to find a parking space 3-4 blocks away….not a good idea in westside Chicago).

I did what usually works best for me…take a few deep breaths and call my husband. I was apparently resisting my magical man’s magic, because I was still upset after talking with him.  [Later on the phone with my husband, I told him the whole story. Then he told me that the reason he was pretty silent was that he was as ticked as I was and if he were here he would have been a complete jerk to my roommate…. SO, he held his tongue, because he knew his anger wouldn’t help my anger. It all makes sense now….]


Then I meditated with some soothing music when I got home. Then I visualized what I wanted to FEEL…safe coming home in the middle of the night; easy parking close to my apartment, confident that I won’t be putting myself in danger by having to walk blocks to get home in the wee hours….

Then I looked at beautiful indoor living spaces including gardens on the internet…

Then……

I got a message from my landlady that she has her garage door fix-it guy coming to fix the garage doors so we can easily get both cars in the garage. (This was after her going on a tirade about giving me the space for free and my safety was not her problem)

An hour later….I’m feeling pretty good.

Synchronicities in Daily Life

 

Here’s a synchronicity:

I have an old friend with whom I had lost contact over the years. My parents have kept me apprised of her very public happenings and career path.

I JUST found out she took a job in Chicago where I am currently working! I’m so excited to reunite. AND I’m so happy that she got a position in Chicago where she can use her amazing magical soulful abilities to bring some police reform to this city.

I think this is an example, for me, that we exist in kairos time, or timelessness time, and that our connections we have with one another are perfect in space and time. We don’t ever really really lose each other.

I love to brag about her, but this isn’t about her accomplishments. None-the-less, if you want to know her future job, take a look at the Chicago Tribune Anne Kirkpatrick police reforms, here.

It makes me smile when I remember conversations we had years ago about her professional dreams and goals.

Manifesting Miracles or An Attitude of Gratitude

It started 4 years ago.

My meaningful conversations with my family frequently surrounded my Dad and whether he would survive me finishing medical school.  We had plans and back up plans in case I needed to come home to be with him before I completed medical school.

I willed him to be healthy and well through my medical school career. And it worked! –Barely.

We video chatted and messaged nearly every day while I was on the island of Dominica. Of course, my parents worried about me as much as I worried about them. You see, I had lived in the Caribbean before, while going to veterinary school. It was fabulous and my education was excellent. But it wasn’t necessarily safe.  I survived relatively unscathed and came home a wee bit wiser about personal safety–and learned martial arts for personal protection. And as far as me worrying about them; Mom is in good health, now  at 80, Dad has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, (COPD) and frequent small bowel obstructions (SBO) from abdominal surgery he had years ago. His health while not robust was stable initially.

The two years on the island of Dominica came and went relatively stress-free. My parents came to visit me for a week which was wonderful. I completed my medical school training in Chicago and Maryland. All seemed to be well. I frequently gave thanks and appreciation for my parents’ good health and mental well-being.

About 6 months ago, I started getting comments from my family members, mom and brother mostly. “Dad is declining. Dad is getting forgetful” Well sure,  I thought to myself, he is getting older and it’s understandable that he’s getting forgetful. Had my loved ones had the medical vocabulary that I’m accustomed to, “dementia” would have gotten my attention. But they didn’t have the words and I lived in denial.
When I came home after I completed medical school, I had a wonderful visit with my brother. His first words after our initial greeting was, “What are we going to do about Mom and Dad?”. My uninformed response was “Well it’s their decision when they want to sell their house and down size”….Oh My Goodness, how wrong I had it. I was assuming sound body and sound mind. I had gone to my father’s pulmonology appointment with him several week earlier and was pleased with his plan of care and medicine regimen. I had not  factored in his mental decline. And I didn’t see it at the time.

I went along for nearly 8 weeks at home, in Washington State,  oblivious to the daily challenges my mother was facing in neighboring Idaho. I got plane tickets and made hotel reservations for my graduation in Miami. I was determined that, after denying them my veterinary school graduation, I would attend and made sure they could attend, my medical school graduation.

We planned on leaving on Wednesday. My father called Tuesday afternoon. He wasn’t feeling so well. I talked with my mother and quickly realized that this was another SBO event and he would likely be in the hospital for  about forty eight hours. So much for graduation, but whatever… it was most important that he be okay. At the hospital the surgeon called. Surgeons never have done that. He was pessimistic. Well he’s a surgeon, so okay; but this was a first, during one of Dad’s SBO events. The surgeon put him on the surgery schedule for the next morning also a first,  and told me Dad is not a good surgical candidate. I knew this already.

Miracles abound. His obstruction was relieved, he was released (!) the following morning and he insisted that my mother come to my graduation in Miami. Of course, my mother being who she is said to herself that “two can play that game”, and told him that she was not going unless he was going!

They managed the four hour drive to my house the morning he was released from the hospital. We managed the trip across the country. Along the way my mother and I answered many of my father’s questions: “Why was I in the hospital?” What floor is our hotel room on? What floor is the restaurant? ” Sometimes we answered  the same question repeatedly. There was the incessant worrying about his oxygen machine battery status. I understand the anxiety. The oxygen is his lifeline. But he is an engineer. He normally understands life of batteries and  normally would have  NO problem calculating the number of hours his batteries will hold a charge. His anxiety was over the top.

As a doctor I get this.

As a daughter it was hard.

They managed the graduation ceremony. They managed the flights. We even had a lovely tour of Miami. It was miraculous really.

And sobering…

And epiphanic…but not in a good way.  But,  good is such a subjective word. So, ultimately, yes, in a good way.

My mother and I had some serious discussions about their future in the next six to twelve months this morning. I will plan on having similar discussions with my brother. And then, sometime in the not so distant future, we will have a family meeting. It will feel like an intervention to me. How do you confront your hero about taking away  his independence and dignity? How do you allow your parents to age graciously when they no longer have the capability of taking care of their activities of daily living?

As a doctor, it’s a normal discussion and relatively easy.

As a daughter, not so much.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Drops in a Bucket-List

 

 

Two Drops in a Bucket-List

nikki

The trip was inspired by a facebook post.

My friend, Nikki, who has been battling a chronic disease recently had to quit work and go on disability. For a 38 year old vivacious, courageous, hard-working, passionate woman, this has been difficult. She also suffers depression and PTSD due to a FEMA Incident a couple of years ago.   (Nikki was an incident commander for the Oslo slide, her home area.)

Nikki posted a picture of Opal Creek ,Oregon on FB that inspired her. Her post was very positive and upbeat, but I felt that there was some longing and emptiness behind it. I asked her if she had a bucket list and she replied that she wanted to see as many national parks as possible.

I had been home for the past four weeks in between finishing medical school and commencing the next phase of my training. So, I offered to take her anywhere she wanted to go in the Pacific Northwest within the next few weeks. We talked about a few possibilities, but finally came to the obvious conclusion: we would go to Opal Creek.

The initial drive was long but uneventful to Lyons, OR where we lodged for the night. It was difficult for her to walk after sitting in the car for so long. She responded well to her medication however, and we were able to enjoy strolling on the grounds of the beautiful house where we stayed.

The next day she couldn’t move her hands. I helped get her dressed, opened her medications, located a straw so she could drink water from a glass, and helped get her in a chair on the back patio in the warm sunshine. I figured if all we did was sit on the patio and enjoy the scenery then we would enjoy it to the fullest and call the trip a success. However, after several hours her hands and muscles loosened up and felt like she could go to Opal Creek.

In hindsight, I realized that our host tried to warn me about the difficult road (full of potholes and washboards) and the long trail (“a couple of miles”; actually four and a half). I’m glad I brushed it off because the magic happened that day.

Though the road was excruciatingly painful for her, the beauty of the scenery out-weighed the pain.  The first magical moment was when we stopped near a bridge and watched the iopal creek poolmpossibly clear water rushing under it. Nikki had tears in her eyes, as she was able to feel joy for the first time in two and a half  years.

We parked at the trail head and hiked the long trail into Opal Creek which was a mining community years ago, turned environmental/educational camp. On the way up I was able to explain how to meditate and convinced her that anyone can do it. We also talked about living in the moment and living in gratitude. We then proceeded to practice a walking meditation and “now moment” exercise . I could sense her “aha” flashes of insight and felt my own energy rising to pure joy.

Later at the camp the park ranger told us all about the history and of course asked us about ourselves.

I explained that I am a veterinarian and Nikki is the most talented veterinary technician with whom I had ever worked. She had to retire because she can no longer work, and we were doing a “bucket list” item by coming here. He looked at this vibrant appearing young woman and said “You mean you don’t want to work.” I saw her smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes and her voice turn to a well-rehearsed near monotone tone as she explained briefly about her illness.       (Scleroderma with complications)

I helped her over to a bench so she could rest and chat with the ranger while I scampered all over the camp taking pictures of old mining implements and beautiful scenery. I also discovered a trail down to Opal Creek Pond which was beautiful and delightful, but one that I thought would be too difficult for Nikki to get to.

opal creek rushing water

When we reunited, of course Nikki wanted to do just that. I told her how rocky and tree root-y a portion of the trail was and that I wasn’t sure if she could get down it given her balance issues. She insisted and so we went. I helped her get over the uneven ground, and she not only made it to the pool, it was her favorite part of the Opal Creek area. She said she felt “just about normal, like my old self.” It was music to my ears.

On returning to the camp, the park ranger hurried over to say good bye, looked Nikki in the eyes and said “I will remember you for a very long time.” Apparently they had an in depth heartfelt conversation while I was going about on my picture taking spree.

He then asked her to clasp his hands as he held them straight out in front of him and to squeeze tight. She did; then he said “Now I’m going to squeeze your hands tight.” The both simultaneously closed their eyes and stood that way for a minute or more. I could sense the power going between them. Afterward, he gave her a hug and wished her well. She told me later that it was a very powerful experience.

On the way back we were able to help two families with ailing dogs. The weather was hot and the trail was too much for overweight, out of shape, and geriatric canines. It was the last little miraculous thing—to do something that we are both passionate about. I’m sure it gave her a sense of purpose as it did me.Nikki opal creek pond

So, at the end of the day we not only checked off an item on one bucket list, we checked off two: Nikki’s desire to see a beautiful natural park and mine to make a difference in my world.

 

NIkki and Lisa

 

Here’s to an overflowing bucket!

What’s on your bucket list? Do you have a chronic illness or deal with chronic pain?

 

 

Some Kind Of Magic

I love this message!

Mouse Talks

When you are small
And your eyes are too bright for the world,
You will ask a grown-up
If there is magic,
Really, real magic.

And the grown-up, well meaning but oblivious,
will say,

“No, there is no such thing as magic.
Witches and wizards
Faeries and sprites
Unicorns and dragons
All are fictional
Imaginary
So very
not-real.”

And the eyes that shone upon the world
Will become ever so slightly dimmer;
It happens to all of us.
And why shouldn’t you believe the grown-ups?
After all, they are giants who own the earth
And everyone knows
The biggest beast gets to make up the rules.

But small one, you will understand far too soon
That the days grow long
And dark
And cold
And takes so much energy to see
The light
The warmth
The magic.
Even grown-ups were small, once,
And their eyes were too bright for the…

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