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.

Tired of being tired?

An interesting thing happened about two weeks ago. This was prior to the George Floyd murder. When Covid19 was our biggest concern.

We had just reached the completion of three months of dealing with the consequences of Covid19. Related to health, work, economics, education, family & friends, etc. We had started to settle into our uncomfortable unpredictable new norm. And one day around noon, I realized that I was tired. I mean TIRED.

So I sent a message to my sibling chat group (there are 4 of us) and just let then know that I was going to take a nap because I couldn’t do one more thing.

My siblings responded immediately saying that they were glad I had said something because they too were exhausted and thought it was just them.

We laughed (emoji style) and then for two minutes texted what we knew to be our truth. The steady state of anxiety, isolation, uncertainty for three months had taken its toll. We may be working partially from home (3 out of 4 of us are in health care, the 4th is in international affairs) but our work hours had increased. I had done the math and I was putting in 14 hr days without the benefit of a water cooler break or an interruption from a colleague passing by my office to chat about upcoming family events.

And the responsibility.

And the doomsday news.

So, yes. We were all tired.

How to make it better?

Started scheduling time in my day to just sit still or go outside (weather in NY is getting better). Used my smartphone alarm and chose a song that would make me want to get up (also the ringtone for my non-medical brother when he calls).

Also started to put a timer on social media bits that were depressing. 5 minute doses at a time. No need to get sucked into the vortex of despair. Try to get 10 minutes doses of positive messages. And 15-30 minute doses of things that make me laugh out loud.

Family time was not an issue since my teens and spouse were technically quarantined. Finally saw each other every morning, afternoon & night. Reminding myself how lucky I am to have them together now because in the fall (hopefully if things fully reopen), my older two go to college and my youngest is the solo child for the next two years.

And each morning- keep trying to find something positive to post. Even in the darkest moments- if your heart is still beating- you have something for which to be grateful.

Most importantly- if you can- take a nap!!

Same Story, Different Decade

My heart is a bit heavy right now with everything that is going on with regards to the death of George Floyd. It reminds me that my kids are not safe.
I’ve always told them since they were little, “don’t put the hoodie up” because I didn’t want people to think they were “thugs”. I taught my older son, who is on the spectrum and has always been tall for his age, not to raise his hands in frustration because someone watching from afar may misinterpret it as a threat. We even refused to let him ride the train at night when he first went to college (just in case). We explained to him that if he disagreed with someone to gently say “I don’t agree and am going to walk away now”. And to slowly back away with his hands by his sides before turning. And to NEVER put his hands in his pockets. Because in our society he would be seen as a threat first and a human being (maybe), later.
With quarantine, they have been home and I have slept better. But now we are re-opening. My daughter (who is a 2020 HS grad) rides her skateboard in my neighborhood but with her hoodie on because salons are closed and I am not cool enough to do her hair. And I worry.
My youngest stays home. If he ventures out he never goes alone. He gets it more than his older siblings. He has to be extra careful. He has seen that if he and a classmate are doing the exact same thing (joking around) he would be the one to get reprimanded. So I tell him, no joking around at school. Or at crew practice. Or at competitions. Yes I know the other kids do, but you are the one who will be seen as the threat, the instigator, the thug.
So though I put up a brave face, deep down I am sad.
But I know that I have to put my chin up, reach out to my colleagues, friends and family and figure out what we can do to make some change.
Education?
Advocacy?
Definitely something.
And I am looking forward to utilizing whatever resources are available that will help me not feel so powerless.

Hello!

Why am I doing this?

  • To share my perspective on issues of the day.
  • And my perspective is truly different.

From the title you know may have figured out that I am an overachiever – physician, wife and mother with an addiction to education (MD MPH MBA).

As such I have a lot of opinions about what is going on in the world today.

And I welcome the discussion – as long as it’s civil.

I’m blogging because I am too lazy to keep a personal journal and this will hold me accountable.

Plus I have loads of stories to share with you that may just help you either avoid my mistakes or learn from my accomplishments.

Of course – this is a dynamic blog so who knows where we’ll be same time next year. But I am hoping you will join me on this journey.

#YouveGotThis

Who am I?

My name is Tochi Iroku-Malize.

I am the first of four children born to a surgeon and a nurse practitioner.

I am married with three children – 19, 17 and 15 (as of May 2020).

I am a family physician, academician, global health doc, dance/theater arts/crew mom, foodie, travel junkie, community service addict, innovator, positive thinker to name a few.

I will share what I know (and some things I don’t know) – hoping to stimulate dialogue and creative solutions to what life throws at us.

And have fun while doing so.