Rain

This morning I woke up to see gray skies and rain.

What was interesting is that it didn’t make me feel gloomy at all. Rather I felt like a kid who gets to put on their raincoat and galoshes to jump around in a puddle.

For me, I guess, my mental state needs to see this as a shower over all of the pain, sorrow, angst, stress, discomfort and uneasiness that all of us are dealing with. No matter who you are, where you live, what you do, life has been a bit bumpy lately.

I try each morning to post one positive line. If I have to think of a positive saying and can write it down, I’m starting my day on the right foot. Everything cannot be horrible.

Yes, there are concerning things occurring around us. Some we can change quickly, others may take much more time and effort. But there are moments of good that occur as well, which we cannot ignore.

So as I start today I have a choice.

Look at the rain and complain.

Or put on my raincoat and boots and smile.

Because I am grateful for another day.

Trick or Treat

I was in my kitchen going through the pantry and saw some bags of candy. My immediate thought was to make sure they were good enough for Halloween.

Then I paused.

Halloween will be different this year.

My kids are older so it’s not an issue for our home (16, 17, 20) but I was thinking of the kids who come by every year for their treats.

I have nephews and nieces that will be looking forward to this day.

So I started thinking of how the candy and treat manufacturers will need to make mini bags of treats that can be sold in bulk for people to distribute. And how everyone will have to wear masks (which most are used to doing).

Then I thought about kids having to go to various homes and how the adults in their homes would have to wipe down every mini bag of candy (the assumption being there would be no individual pieces).

So I thought, maybe there would have to be small get togethers where kids did trick or treating from room to room or from corner to corner of one home.

And then I stopped thinking.

Somehow, someway, the adults will hopefully figure out the safest way to create Halloween festivities for children in our unusual climate.

It’s not too early to start planning ahead.

Happy September- preparing for October.

Looking forward to treats.

Catching Up

I find myself “bumping” into old friends, colleagues and acquaintances either live or virtually. Recent events have made the last 12 months go by without the usual venues to connect and it sometimes is surprising to realize so much time has passed since the last encounter.

The conversation usually starts off with “So when did we last see each other?”

Then we each think out loud…

3 months ago? 6 months ago? Wait before Covid? Ok, last summer? Has it been a year already?

It ends with the “We really need to catch up.”

But instead of the usual goodbyes, I pull out my iPhone and open my calendar app and tell them we need to lock down a date and time for a get together either live or virtual.

Even if it is one month away.

And this has worked for me so far.

My live meet ups are usually in my home where before they arrive we agree on a restaurant from where to order a meal. The idea being to avoid the “buffet/family style” food sharing.

When they arrive, we both have our masks on and do the elbow bump as a greeting. Hands are washed and we sit in my living room the obligatory 6 ft apart, then we start talking.

What’s been happening with the family.

What’s been going on at work.

How are we each handling the current events locally, nationally and internationally.

The food arrives and we move to the dining area – again apart, with our own food items. Masks have to come down so we eat and drink carefully. Masks go up intermittently. And when the meal is done we retreat to the living room.

Masks up again we continue our conversation, laughing and sometimes lamenting.

For the times when we have to schedule a virtual meet up, the same rule applies. It goes in my calendar as a Zoom meeting. At the appropriate time (usually later in the evening) we connect virtually, each with our favorite beverage and snacks/meal.

The advantage here is we aren’t hindered by masks.

We can see each other’s facial expressions and guffaw without concern. Same conversations as if we were together in person (with the obligatory family member walking by or the dogs barking- but it’s not a business meeting so all is good).

Plus we aren’t worried about having to drive home after our time together. (The roads are safer!)

At the end of each encounter I have a warm feeling inside. Just the ability to connect outside of work for the purpose of reconnecting socially (with non-family members- because though I love them, they don’t count in this situation). How I had missed that! And now I’m finding a way to bring it back into my busy life.

Social connection while social distancing.

Find a way to make it happen.

Challenges

Let’s face it.

There is no shortage of challenges that are dropped in front of us these days. It’s just the nature and timing that make some more difficult than others. And they don’t seem to wait for one challenge to leave your life before presenting themselves.

Some of them are just not worthy of your efforts, or the timing is not right. And if they are not a matter of life or death- you reassess your priorities and make the decision to face them or turn your back on them.

Others leave you no choice but to face them head on.

Those are the truly tough ones.

Because you don’t always get a chance to drop everything you are doing to focus all your energy on dealing with them. You have to figure out a way to compartmentalize or divide your resources in order to attend to the new issue at hand while not neglecting other important matters.

The weight of the challenge can be daunting.

You may wake up feeling great, then all of a sudden you remember the task ahead. (You know the feeling – wanting to pull the covers over your head and just not do anything at all.)

But you swing your legs over the side of your bed. You start your morning ritual. And in your head you start strategizing on how to proceed or which steps of an already planned out process you need to take.

And you reach out.

To those who are going to help you with the challenge.

To those who are going to be your cheerleaders.

To those who will just listen when things are extremely hard.

Take note that you will come in contact with individuals that seem to be put in your path just to make the challenge a bit more difficult.

Just keep in mind that each individual has their own batch of challenges they are also navigating. Some doing it well, others not so much. And their mismanagement of their own issues may spill over into their interactions with you.

Don’t allow this to add to your burden.

Stay focused on what you need to do.

And remember that, despite the outcome, you will have grown. Physically, mentally, emotionally and/or spiritually. The lessons learned will help guide you in the future.

So – you’re probably thinking I’m going to end this by saying “Challenge Accepted”.

Nope. (Though I was really really tempted to do so!)

Decide if this challenge is what you need to do for you and yours. Think it through. Strategize. Gather your resources (human as well). Then go.

May the other side be everything and more that you hoped for.

Measuring a Year

“Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?”

Those are the words that greet me in the morning – one of the many songs I use as alarms so that I gently ease myself awake. (I dislike abrupt awakenings – likely a remnant of my days as a student, resident, solo private practice physician and then a hospitalist – those darn beepers/alarms.)

So naturally, as I ease myself into consciousness I sing this song, “Seasons of Love” (Jonathan Larson’s theme song for his 1996 Broadway musical “Rent”).

It’s about how to measure a year in the life of someone.

And I started thinking about all that has happened in the past one year for myself and others. Summer 2019 most of us were clueless to what Summer 2020 would look like.

In the past one year some have been diagnosed with life changing illnesses. Others have succumbed to COVID-19 leaving loved ones baffled. Those that survived may now have a chronic illness.

The acknowledgment of racism by many stirred people to openly express their views leading to some very uncomfortable but necessary conversations. Many of those who lived through the same discussion decades ago marveled at the thought that they would be having the same discussions in 2020.

The youth – especially those who were rising seniors in 2019 (high school and college) could never have imagined their last months with classmates being done in a virtual space. Proms, senior trips, graduation ceremonies were either cancelled or reimagined.

Drive-by birthday parties and celebrations became the norm. A trail of cars with balloons and signs as friends and loved ones drove by homes or parking lots to acknowledge special days.

Virtual meetings, lectures, get togethers and parties became routine via platforms such as zoom, webex and teams. (The fact that non-techies know what this is shows how much has changed.)

Us older folks found out about social media platforms such as TikTok (a sacred haven for the younger folks) and some parents/grandparents made it a mission to outdo their kids/grandkids with the number of likes and follows. (I myself was blocked by my 17 yr old daughter who said it was “creepy” for me to “like” her posts.)

Who knew that one of my screening questions for patients would be “Have you been outside New York state in the last two weeks?”

That delivery services like Amazon and UberEats would be my go to tools making life a bit more comfortable (when items available).

Jobs lost, businesses closed, fear of how to financially survive in uncertain times.

Global relationships between countries changing almost daily. Allies and enemies vary depending on the month.

And through it all- we still need to handle our day to day events.

Which can be exhausting.

Think of it.

What has happened for you in the last 365 days? 8760 hours? 525,600 minutes?

How will you measure your past year?

“In daylights, in sunsets
In midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife
In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, a year in the life?”

Larson concludes that we measure a year in someone’s life by moments of love.

Spending time with my teens (even though they arise at noon).

Daily discussions via WhatsApp with my siblings, mom and sister-in-law.

Frequent conversations with my close friends, especially my BFF/sister friend.

Being grateful for a moment in the sun or the sound of a light rain shower.

Watching the dogs run amok outdoors.

Random moments of peaceful silence.

Waking up each morning.

If I choose to measure this past year in moments of love- its actually not been so bad.

Pebbles

There are days when you are filled with optimism, the world seems great, the sun is shining and you have a renewed vigor to conquer and thrive.

That’s what it was like for me this morning. Took my morning walk, bought my banana and decaf coffee (black with 2 ice cubes – so I don’t burn my tongue) and headed to the clinic to prepare for the day.

I then received some news from a close friend.

And all of a sudden I was sad.

You know, the quiet kind of sad that you find yourself wiping a tear from your face that you didn’t know had formed.

And I felt helpless.

How do you help others through their issues as you struggle to manage your own. Imagining that they are pebbles that are being tossed at you whilst carrying delicate breakables in both hands and trying to race towards a finish line.

Control and the lack of it.

Hard to do when you’ve spent the majority of your life learning how to compartmentalize and control various factors that will affect not only your life but those of others that look up to you, depend on you, care for you, support you.

I let out a sigh.

Then I took another breath and lifted my chin.

Ok pebbles.

Challenge accepted. On behalf of me and all those in my circle.

I’m going to figure out how to catch you or dodge you or use you to my advantage.

You’ll look nice in my garden once you are no longer airborne.

Just you wait

I finished going through my schedule for today and decided to do a quick tweet of positivity. Of course you cannot just post a tweet without reading the latest on your page.

And what was there? A reminder that Hamilton the musical would be playing on July 3rd (also my UK anniversary – yes we married twice, once in the UK then again a year later in the US).

I smiled as I watched the trailer. I actually played it three times. It made me feel warm inside. I was looking forward to watching it and then dissecting it for the first time with my kids who have never seen it. (We live in NY folks, it costs a pretty penny).

Then the real fun in dissecting it again with my siblings- my brothers had both seen it as had I (in Chicago), but my sister had not. We have had numerous conversations about the story, music, lyrics, choreography, staging (musical nerds). My brothers actually know the words to all the songs (yes the lawyer and the doctor).

I started thinking about whether I should just watch it once in the morning, then discuss, then watch again.

We sibs are usually excited about Marvel and DC and Star Wars movies. But this is Hamilton.

My apologies for those who are not familiar with the show.

As per Wikipedia today (copied and pasted):

Hamilton is a musical with music, lyrics, and book by Lin-Manuel Miranda that tells the story of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton. Inspired by the 2004 biography Alexander Hamilton by historian Ron Chernow, the show’s music draws heavily from hip hop, as well as R&B, pop, soul, and traditional-style show tunes; the show also casts non-whiteactors as the Founding Fathers and other historical figures.”

Yes, I googled that.

I don’t get paid by Disney or Broadway or anyone benefiting from the production. I am just a fan of musicals especially one that brings to light our history in an engaging manner. Showcasing how one person can make a difference against all odds even with a disadvantaged beginning and living an imperfect life.

Especially now.

I am happy and excited for July 3rd. My anniversary (day before Independence Day on purpose because we were in the UK) and the release of Hamilton the movie.

“There’s a million things I haven’t done,
But just you wait”

Just you wait.

Father’s Day 2020

I woke up this morning and remembered it was Father’s Day. Which meant I had to get started in recognizing all the folks that are dads or play the father role in the lives of others.

First step – say a quick prayer because I am grateful to be alive. Then a silent Happy Father’s Day to my dad who passed away 6 years ago.

Second step- nudge my husband and wish him a happy day. His gifts arrived from Amazon over the last two days and I had hidden them. Would put them in a gift bag (or just leave them in a box – this is Covid19 time folks – don’t judge). We’ll figure out dinner later in the day.

Next step, Whatsapp my brothers and wish them a happy day. Send some usual snide remarks (that’s what big sisters do) but let them know they are awesome. My sister is in charge of the sibling basket delivery for this one.

Then there are my maternal cousins and uncles who thankfully have a chat group as well. I use it for all holidays and special days. Today was no exception.

My dad’s family do not have a joint chat group so they will have their messages sent individually.

Finally friends, coworkers and colleagues. All by group chat or individual texts. Send a general message via social media (including this one). And I can now get out of bed.

I love technology.

Happy Father’s Day!!!!

Mother Daughter Talk

Had an unplanned conversation with my 17 yr old daughter last night. She had just come home and had come to my room to discuss her plans for the rest of the week.

Per usual, I asked where she would be going, with whom, what time, parents, phone numbers, etc. (Listen, I know in a few months she is off to college and I won’t know these details but she’s still a minor under my roof and I am a mom). She provided me with the required information and I felt comfortable with her plan.

I then did what many moms do.

I said she could go as long as she promised to finish up her “to do” list which included completing her course selection for the fall (she had only put in her cores) and setting up a virtual meeting with her new college advisor.

She agreed.

I then told her that although her college advisor might be well meaning and know a lot about the school, they would not know who she is as a person. And that she should take their advice, mull it over, then make her own decision.

I reminded her of her high school advisor who advised her to apply to only a certain group of schools because “they matched her skill set”. And that it was I who added top rated schools to her application because I knew she was capable.

I then told her of how her older brother was advised to take less courses as a freshman in college than others. And that I added the courses to his list because I knew he was capable.

I told her of how as a child I was advised that I could not be a doctor but if I worked hard I could be the secretary in a doctors office. And that my mom told me never to let anyone define me, I could be anything I wanted to be.

So I summarized to her by repeating those words. “Don’t let anyone define you. You can be anything you want to be.”

She nodded her head in agreement.

She is NYU bound.

Her brother is a rising university junior with a 3.6 GPA.

And I not only got my MD but added an MPH and MBA to those initials.

Know your worth.

Here Comes the Sun

I was thinking back to a time when I was seriously ill and my BFF/SisterFriend came to see me in the hospital with a traveling suitcase full of things that I would need.

Now these were things that I would not have thought of since I had not been hospitalized long term before. But later on I would find myself extremely grateful.

For example- the backscratcher. I mean really. Who brings a backscratcher to a hospital? Someone who knows that in the middle of the night you may get that itch that your upper limbs cannot navigate. And you have two choices- call the nurse/medical assistant to please scratch your back or rub back and forth against your bed if you are able. But the backscratcher!!! Oh the relief! (I still use it till this day).

Second was the Christmas lights. it wasn’t December- in fact it was the middle of summer. But hanging the lights in the room and turning them on at night made the room seem less depressing. Especially when you have to stay long term. And it was a conversation starter for anyone new on the night shift.

Third was the binder- for business cards, lab results, consultations, recommendations, and anything else the healthcare team would throw at me during the day. You see, she knew that I would not remember half the things that were said. It was so true, and I am a physician!!

The little magnetic containers for earbuds, jewelry other small items that would be used daily but didn’t want to lose (or forget/misplace). These stuck to the fridge next to my bed and was perfect.

Lotions, creams and normal soft toilet paper. Nothing worse than hospital grade TP when you have a runny stomach and have to use it 4-6 times a day. Little things help you feel human.

Finally the positivity posters and cards which were displayed where I could view them from my bed while laying down. Truly needed when negative thoughts started to creep up.

So, here I was today, flipping through old pictures and I saw the one I took of her when she rolled in with her supplies. And the song that popped into my head was “Here Comes the Sun” (Beatles 1969).

And it made me smile.

So I send this message to everyone- besides your regular family that are supposed to be there for you, look around to see if you have that other someone who helps to bring the sun. And do your part to bring the sun to others.

Here comes the sun.

Here comes the sun.

And I say…it’s alright.