Monday, March 10, 2014

Nigerian Parent Invencible


Today, I was reading the wikipedia entry for Chiwetel Ejiofor (an actor I've admired since Dirty Pretty Things) and read about the tragic death of his father in a car accident in Nigeria, while he survived, and my heart sank.

It was the same way I was saddened to hear about a Nigerian woman, single mother in Michigan who was hit by a car as she crossed the street on her way to work and was killed.

If I ever have puff puff again, I'll probably cry over it as I remember how my mother, father and brother ate puff puff prepared by her at the last Nigerian wedding they attended.

I realize I'm really shaken by these deaths more than baseline because they bring my father's mortality into focus. My father is such a strong personality and a strong force in my life, I cannot imagine him suddenly and violently leaving, as in the likes of a car accident. In fact, God forbid! I pray when I do lose my father, it's not in such a way.

You cannot prepare for life and you can't for death but I'm just coming to terms with my grandparents dying. Sometimes I call my parents to make sure they're okay. I'm not ready for them to leave, but who ever is?

I've known a lot of Nigerians in my father, aunties and uncles in that way that unrelated adults are aunties and uncles, and I see them as invincible, illogically so. I don't know if it's the inherent faith and God-fearing nature of so many of them, their ubiquity in my life for so long with little tragedy. It seems like they'd be here forever until they age and move on of natural causes.

There's something so alive, so vital about my father's presence in my life. Something about him that made me more apt to assume he was perfect for so long, even when I knew he was wrong. He's so steadfast in his faith and in his work as I suppose are many a first generation immigrant, like the auntie who made puff puff at the wedding, as I imagine Ejiofor's father may have been, a physician killed as he drove from a wedding in Nigeria.

And my heart sinks because they're not invincible, and I've always known it, but he feels so alive to me even when he's no where near me because of that presence his persona creates, and I'm not ready for it to be violently stripped from this realm. Not yet.

My father has commuted every day, one hour to work and one hour home, since the day after I was born, for 29 years now. I pray for his safe journey to work and safe return home, every day, for the rest of his life.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Other Side of the Storm


I'm waking up on the other side of the storm. I just completed 5 weeks of inpatient medicine where I was a senior on service. It was great - I learned a ton, I taught a ton, and I have so much more to learn. I passed Step 3, I'm completely done with the USMLE and I'm one step closer to being a sho' nuff doctor. I'm coasting through the rest of second year with all outpatient rotations after being fairly front-loaded.

And my life around me is a bit of a mess.

I'm sure I have some rotting food in my fridge that I'll soon be obligated to touch to throw out, my bathroom is the nastiest I've ever let a bathroom get (I have a low tolerance for bathroom mess), I have one load of laundry left to do, a bunch of clean laundry to hang and a whole new bunch of laundry piling up in my hamper. I have weeks of eating hospital food catching up with me and I'm off my wellness game. I have evaluations to complete, procedures to log, continuities to track, all sorts of things. I basically have my work cut out for me right now.

But...I'm going to take it one step at a time. Tonight, laundry will go unwashed, the tub will keep it's ring, the rotting food that is now frozen in time in my freezer will freeze another day. After clinic, I will go to the gym, I will come back and do a hot oil treatment, shower and shampoo, and then chill the rest of the evening.

Early spring cleaning? I'll save that for Friday after the gym.

I admittedly let myself go during this last block in favor of being a present, active, senior. I had a bunch of awesome interns that made my job easy. And I think I did the right thing. In order to be as fully committed to service as possible as a resident, you have to siphon some energy from other parts of your life sometimes. The part that I didn't want to sacrifice were relationships. So I kept relationships up and running, maintained the bare minimum personal hygiene, and pushed forward on service.

Last night leaving was relatively cathartic. But residency goes on.

Now what? I have a full day of clinic, then I begin our behavioral health block. I look forward to hanging out with my second year class and sorting out the untidiness in my life and faith right now.

On a slightly unrelated note, I only have nightmares when I sleep on my back. Last night, I had a disturbing dream that the world around me was being destroyed by huge bombs. Already, several people had died and the world was left in a state of anarchy and uncertainty. I was back at home, and it was only my mother and I at home at the time. I don't know where my father and brother were. I was sitting at the table, eating a breakfast of mixed fruit (which was dream fruit so it didn't look like real fruit) that I think was good. My mother and I were having a good morning, shrouded in the fact that we were living each moment like we could get killed the next. It was so scary, but I was a full physician at this time and I had to drive out to work. The problem was, I didn't know which route to take. There was a freeway exchange in my dreams (way back...I'm reaching back, now, because I hadn't had a dream about that exit in a while) that I usually avoided taking when leaving Ann Arbor but that I'd have to take because my other route had recently been destroyed.

And although we knew that we could get killed at any moment, our moments were filled with constant prayer and we had faith in God that we would be seen through. And with all of this on my mind, I ate the fruit plate before me and chatted with my mother about the state of the world as the sun shone more brightly than it usually does in Michigan and as the deceptively tranquil day was before us with blue skies.

I woke up, fearing for my life, sleeping on my back with my head to the side, looking at my open closet. Not sure why I only have nightmares when sleeping on my back.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Ideal


The other day, I was sitting with my SO and we were reflecting on our relationship (1.5 years now), and I can't remember how it came up, but I think I mentioned that I'd grown since the time I'd known him, and that I'm still growing, and I realize the things that I used to want in a relationship I don't actually want and things that I didn't think I wanted I really appreciate having.

He asked me who my ideal SO would be.

And I couldn't answer him. I know he's conscious of the differences in our spirituality and probably wonders if one day I'll wake up and decide I'd rather be with a more-practicing man and leave him on his way, especially when I get to talking about religion (even if I'm bemoaning certain elements). I feel like the answer I gave him would have only upset him.

Because, really, I've never thought long enough to formulate an ideal. My ideal man was always someone who would fit well with me. Someone who would make sense in my life, my practice, with my belief, and that was it. It takes actually being in a relationship to realize how selfish that view is and realize that it's never that simple with another, complex, whole human being at your side that you're relating to.

And just because I've waited and was prayerful and feel like I'm a really good person, doesn't mean I'm going to be the perfect SO. In fact, I spent so many years by myself, I still find myself being self-centered and forcing myself to put myself aside for a little bit to really hear my SO's point of view, his hangups, his problems.

Not that I'm usually a selfish person. Of course I know how to be a good friend and I do this for friends all the time. It's just...I guess I always imagined a relationship while being alone and relatively self-sufficient, so spending time with someone in the flesh who is filling that role after imagining it alone for a while makes it hard to get outside of myself and those imaginings and relate to the person on the other side of the dream.

So I feel like whatever I imagined as the ideal man or the ideal relationship before was fairly one-sided, as if there were a human man out there whose sole purpose in life was to be my eventual husband or something. And of course I never expected someone to be like that, but when one creates an imaginary man in their brains, he doesn't tend to have aspirations unique to your own.

What would be a better soul mate then one who also believed in care for the underserved, here and abroad? Maybe...

The fact is, the possible "ideal" combinations with me as a person are endless, but they are, regardless, combinations that I do not find often in nature. And implicit in my SO's question is his wondering if I'm settling or not, if I can do better or not.

And I guess I could imagine a lot of different types of men. Of late, I think it would be cool to travel to Brazil, specifically to Salvador, and meet some guy at the faculdade who was really into Nigeria, specifically Igbo culture, and therefore be fascinated with me, my family's history, my religion, and things go from there...

But I don't think about those things anymore. I don't construct ideals anymore because I have something real that is good, that works, that is better than I could have imagined in the package that it came in. I have before me a real man who has lived 6 years before me, has lived 33 years independent of me, has dreams and goals that do not involve me, and yet is now intimately interwoven in my life and it just seems silly to prefer to be with an imaginary man of my own making.

Whether or not I could "do better" is I guess up for debate, but I don't think I can fabricate an ideal. Not right now, not while things are so real.