T’is the Season

Where I am, there is snow on the ground and the temperature is a bit cold.

Our teams are manning the antibody infusion tents for those with mild to moderate Covid19. These same team members are also getting their vaccines to protect their patients, colleagues, friends and family.

So there appears to be hope on the horizon.

I look at this season and recall the heartbreak and sorrow we experienced throughout 2020, but I also find the moments of joy that may or may not have occurred in spite of (because of?) everything.

Birthdays, weddings, graduations, etc may not have been as expected but they happened. The significance of the events was not diminished by the method in which they were celebrated.

I will not pretend that the “good” things outnumbered the “bad” things in 2020.

But I will acknowledge that I am here today.

You are here today.

And it appears we have made it to the end of 2020 and will hopefully awake on the morning of 2021.

The holidays may be different this year but there is so much to be thankful for.

Permit yourself to smile, sing and laugh.

Fa La La La La

La La La La

Sunday Morning

There is something about Sunday mornings.

Whether I was on call or working from home or at a meeting or just home.

Sundays felt like a reset.

A day to take stock of last week and then plan for the new one.

A day to reflect on what is going on in my life and then be truly grateful for the positive things.

Because no matter how bad things are, there are little positive things happening every day.

My positive is that I woke up today. Everything else is gravy. So I am looking forward to the week ahead.

As Lionel Ritchie sang…

“That’s why I’m easy,

“I’m easy like Sunday morning.”

Happy Sunday.

Broadway

I was hanging up Christmas decorations at home and had my music tuned to, not holiday music, but Broadway show tunes.

I love Broadway.

And that includes the off Broadway productions – so I’ll say I love live theater.

Sitting in the audience, excited, waiting for the curtains to open (if not already).

The orchestra begins to play and then the show begins.

I really really miss live theater.

My promise to myself is that when we get to our steady state where live theater is allowed again, I will make a more concerted effort to attend performances.

Meanwhile I am starting to watch the live performances and/or movies that are on the various networks (on weekends, at night, when able…we are under a second wave so weekends are no longer sacred).

The recordings are not the same, but I still enjoy the chills, warmth and excitement of performers showcasing the fantastic work of writers and backstage staff and producers.

For now, I hum along to the online station, try to guess which show a song is from, laugh and cry at various lyrics, and just allow myself to feel good.

All The Leaves Are Brown

And the sky is gray.

If you are of a certain age you are probably humming the song that these two sentences trigger.

Yes, it’s not as bright and sunny in the Northeast as it was many weeks ago.

And a number of us are dealing with the new surge of Covid-19 cases because our jobs require us to step up our activities during this period.

The concern this go round is that the human capital that health care systems, transportation, food and retail industries, utilities, etc needed to keep us going may not be enough.

After going through the first wave, a number of people are tired.

Mentally, physically and emotionally.

Some have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and are unsure if they can go through this again.

So what can we do?

Try to keep the number of cases with Covid19 from escalating too high (I know, it seems like that ship has sailed).

Wash hands, mask up, social distance.

If you are positive, follow the quarantine guidelines.

If you have mild to moderate symptoms and are high risk, ask about the new antibody infusion treatments that the FDA has issued Emergency Use Authorization. See if this treatment is an option for you.

You have to be 12yrs and older, 40kg and up with certain risk factors. The infusion takes about an hour. The idea being to hopefully prevent you from becoming a severe case that needs to be hospitalized.

Meanwhile the various vaccine options are almost here. Some requiring two doses which take effect two weeks after the second dose is given.

Regardless of what you decide- have a conversation now with your family and your doctor so you are prepared should you find yourself in the position of needing care later.

If you are suffering from mental, physical or emotional distress please reach out to someone.

If you notice someone is in need, please reach out to them.

Remember, hospitals are slowly shutting down visitations because of the surge.

You do not want to be faced with that prospect as a patient nor as the loved one.

And should you be in that position, things are a bit more hopeful in that we have new treatments and have a better understanding of how this virus works than we did at the beginning of the year.

Science is working.

So, I’m looking out again through my window.

All the leaves are brown

And the sky is gray

But I am hopeful we will get through this if everyone does their part.

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.