Sunday, May 19, 2013



Dissociation. It's a funny looking word when you stare at it almost immediately. It's that feeling one gets when they've sacrificed themselves entirely to something or someone not themselves and have little self left for his or herself at the end. It's the feeling I used to get after long days as a third year medical student, caring for patients, trying to figure out what was expected of me and comply with that, living for compassion and living for a grade.

I hadn't had that feeling in residency so much until this last night shift. I woke up, tossing and turning, unable to sleep more than three hours after the last shift in which I was absolutely exhausted. I keep thinking about the last patient we admitted. I keep thinking about the family meetings, his grandchildren sprawled out on the floor crying, running out of the room intermittently, bowing their heads, trying to understand, in an instance, death that they apparently did not see looming.

I was tempted to log into the computer to see if he's still alive. If I keep thinking about him, I'll have to. He may not be. I wish I could close the loop with the family and debrief. I wish I could be there, in spite of my lack of sleep.

I couldn't turn in my bed but for dreaming I was in the hospital. So I just had to sit up. And purposeless tears flowed down my face. I did not start them nor stop them. They came on their own.

I think I'm tired, too. Last night, I started losing my sense of self. I felt isolated, I felt apart, I felt different. I feel alien. I feel like I'm different from everyone else. I feel like no one can relate to me, not my classmates, not anyone in my program, not my SO. I felt alien in the music that I like, my sensibilities, the way I dress, the way I think, the way I am.

I think it's all happening because last night was a rough night, I put too much of myself into that family meeting, that patient encounter, gently touching the man who may be dying and speaking to him softly so he wouldn't feel discouraged as his granddaughter, not understanding the gravity of his illness, told me how his legs had been becoming cold before he was admitted. It was hard and I had to be strong. It was hard when I had to be strong because I'm in this position right now because I was inappropriately weak. I can't be weak now.

I think it's all happening because I'm also in transition, a transition that's been long in coming. A transition in my faith, a transition that is not complete but that will be long. I've lost elements of my life that used to give it meaning. My life still has meaning, of course, but in some ways it's so different I barely recognize myself.

I'm in the same in the mirror, and that I'm so the same in the mirror despite how different I sometimes feel inside feels incongruent.

It doesn't make sense that I look the same. I should look different.

I feel like dropping off the face of the earth. Not really. I feel like disappearing for sometime, into myself, away from everyone else, like I used to have the luxury to, to listen to the music that I like that no one else cares for, to dance my samba in peace. I feel like taking long walks alone, reflecting alone, being by myself. I feel like being present only in a professional sense.

And now the tears are purposeful.

Sometime in the course of last night, I completed a turn of dissociation.

I can't be someone I'm not, and I can't play like every way that I've changed since I've started this residency isn't a big deal.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Good Enough


I once had a professor in medical school named Dr. Goodenough. He was more than good enough. He was integral in some way I cannot remember in either the Civil Rights Movement itself or was vocal in advocating for underrepresented minority students at the medical school. Either way, he was an excellent educator, investigator and physician.

Apart from the cool name, I've always taken good enough, in the description of people, as a partial slur. Kind of like Mr. Zuckerman's "That'll do, pig. That'll do." It felt like settling. It felt like my mom saying, "I'd rather you get Cs and be happy."

No, that was not acceptable. I scoffed at that. Daddy understood. Even the A minuses from AP courses that therefore counted as As didn't feel quite right. No. Good enough is too easy. I took that from school and placed into my spiritual life, and being human was too easy. Just being was too easy. In order to strive in the way of God, I should have always striven to be better. We are imperfect but I should always strive to be perfect.

As I put it in a previous entry, I am striving for impossible. And if you are striving for impossible, won't you always be flustered?

Imagine how hard it was for me, a self-proclaimed perfectionist, to read Brené Brown's Daring Greatly. Imagine how much harder it was for me to read that not only is perfectionism a shield from vulnerability, but that it is destructive. It's not striving for success or challenge or excellence, it's striving to be liked and accepted.

I have spent much of my childhood and adult life slinking through the path of least resistance, trying to find the way to be to be most liked by those around me or, even better, to be the most liked by the people I would potentially meet. I took politeness to be, how can I mold myself to be the most pleasant to passersby? And then I amplified it and carried it with me through the rest of life.

How could I be to be most loved by a man? How could I be to be the most loved by both of my parents simultaneously? Who could I bring home who would make not only my parents reasonably happy, but also fit into my large and crazy extended family? Good enough...oh no, not good enough for my loved ones.

But what about good enough for me?

I was never enough for me. There was always something deficient. Spirituality was no longer a haven, it was a prison that I couldn't leave until I was good enough. And I was never good enough. And good enough wasn't good enough, it had to be near perfect. It never occurred to me that here and now could ever be good enough.

And because I wouldn't let myself be good enough, no one was good enough for me.

Not that I now believe in settling, because it's not the same. It's just that when you're more content with where you are in the moment, you are more apt to see people in the moment, than try to project your future self to line up with a current man who would fit well with your ideal self that you hope to attain in the next year, but not with you.

When I let my now be good enough, I allowed myself to see who I actually am and what is currently important to me. It feels brazenly wordly and I'm still struggling with the concept. But good enough, am I good enough?

I'm more than good enough, by God's grace.