My daughter Erin recently asked me what I may have learned from my twenties. Looking back on that period of my life, it definitely felt like I was just deeply immersed in the world of medical training. Fighting to keep my head above water and wanting desperately to fit in, to be allowed to stay.
And because I had seen some family members go through infertility, the other fear that drove me was not wanting to miss out on having a family of my own. So I was learning how to be a doctor at the same time as learning to be a mom.
Many others have written about how the medical training process teaches us to dissociate from ourselves and our personal needs. Medical students learn from day one that you don't leave morning teaching rounds or the operating room. Even when you really have to use the toilet - you learn to drink less water or just hold it until it’s convenient to go.. You learn to eat when there is time, because you don't know when or if there will be a ward admission, a code blue or if your clinic or procedure will run long.
The explicit part of the curriculum says that patient and team needs always come first, and thus your needs are secondary. We in healthcare are far from alone when it comes to this, countless teachers, bus drivers, and other service workers can relate. We are not allowed to stop because it could result in compromised care. and so we learned to stretch your bodies and minds way beyond the call of normal biological limits for sleep, food, rest.
The story I told myself about those years was that I was so busy I didn’t have time for art or creativity. But now I’m realizing that I have always been an artist and a creative. Because even during my residency, I was drawn to be creative in this emerging field called Women’s Health. From there, I became one of the first of a new breed of leaders known as physician executives, and later I was called to join Integrative Medicine.
Unconditional love means there we can accept our humanity while still challenging ourselves with high standard
I never understood why I found myself in these unconventional peripheries of my speciality, looking to bridge and bring people together from different siloes. There was a part of me that wished that I could stay in the middle of the pack, with my peers who were normal, conventional, walking the straight and narrow. But apparently that wasn’t my journey.
And now I see that it all happened for a reason. It’s like even when I was trying to lay low and hide to fit in, that creative energy had to come out in some way. I definitely approached parenting creatively, throwing away the generational rulebook and allowing my kids to teach me along the way.
With coaching, I’ve learned how to be loving and forgiving of myself. I’ve learned how unconditional love means that we can accept our humanity while still challenging ourselves with high standards. I’ve learned how sitting with my inner critic Milly and hearing her message of needing to protect me, helps to quiet her.
I’m reminded of how, when we first moved into our new home in Bellevue Washington, our yard was an overgrown wilderness. It was hard to even see what was in there at first, but eventually we found some beautiful trees, flowers, fruit, and a whole ecosystem. I’m still finding rocks and weeds in my inner ecosystem, but it’s been extraordinary to discover the magic and energy that’s been there all along.