Erosion

Good evening!

Hi all! I apologize for my brief hiatus from the blogosphere. I recently returned from a much needed vacation in Arizona, a place I have begun to term the “Land of Erosion”. We started in Scottsdale, stopped in Sedona and ultimately made our way to Grand Canyon Village.  I had never seen the Grand Canyon before and breathtakingly regarded it with a mixture of awe and, well, terror. I must say I have respect for the unapologetic nature of the canyon. It seems to say, “I’m magnificent, mysterious and deadly, deal with it.” It also seems to say, “Mid-life crisis? Get over yourself!” The product of millions of years of erosion, the Grand Canyon is truly a beautiful sight to behold.

Since the trip, I have felt very inspired. I have found myself pondering the idea of erosion and the erosive forces that have shaped who I am to date. Have long on-call nights been my Colorado River? Maybe. I certainly know they have eroded my ability to sleep soundly and often my ability to be mindful and relaxed. Along the same lines, perhaps the nurturance and support I received from mentors and friends during my residency/fellowship have been my wind, as these relationships have similarly shaped my sense of self while simultaneously building my character.

For some people, erosion may have a negative connotation. It represents the forces of endless traffic, job pressures, and interpersonal stressors wearing one down to the point of feeling numb and disconnected.

But perhaps all erosion really does is uncover the beauty of the true self, the self just waiting to be revealed by time and the “elements”, (i.e. your horrible boss)? Since my trip, I have come to view the erosive forces in my life as opportunities to reveal positive aspects of my character. Traffic provides an opportunity to develop patience and mindfulness. Being awakened in the middle of on-call nights provides an opportunity to practice kindness by helping another person in need. Friendship and love provide the opportunity to experience joy and renewal.

Don’t get me wrong, some of the elements have certainly taken their toll on me. I am not without my jagged edges and weird protuberances. But, these elements are getting me closer to beautiful. They are getting me closer to being my own Cathedral Rock.

Future goal: Embrace erosion as necessary to the very shaping of my self. Practice viewing erosive forces as opportunities to move closer to the beauty of personal growth and development of character. This, like the Grand Canyon, represents true and timeless beauty.

Nothing is Forever?

Hello!

This week I continue to find myself in the throes of a mid-life crisis. I seriously hope it eases up soon because the angst can be a bit uncomfortable!  At this point in my life I believe I am at the proverbial crossroads. I observe some of my friends happily settled into marriage with secure employment and multiple children. I observe others who are unmarried, without children, and happily settled into online dating and exotic travel. Truly, I am enamored with both sides.

Morbid alert! If death is to be my greatest teacher, the silent and inevitable motivator to live each day to its fullest, how should I live those days? Should I live expansively, traveling far and wide? Should I seek out new, diverse and vibrant adventures through which to learn and grow? Or, should I live deeply? Should I nurture my current life and deepen existing relationships by mindfully listening, savoring each conversation and truly being present? Should I further deepen familial attachments by having children?

Or should I just forget it all and focus on my now bordering-on-compulsive Breaking Bad binge-watching fest ?!?

A couple years ago, after a particularly demoralizing day at work, I must have had a defeated look on my face. A colleague approached me and remarked, somewhat condescendingly and with a note of exasperation, “Nothing is forever”, then proceeded to drive away nonchalantly in his car.  I was left wondering if this was supposed to make me feel better or worse?  I understand the comfort of the “this too shall pass” sentiment, I really do. Trust me, this mid-life crisis cannot go soon enough. But, the idea of the transience of everything was enough to shake me to my existential core.

This may seem contrived (my apologies!), but lately I have been thinking that love is what is forever. Cue the obvious Beatles reference! People die, but the love they shared does not. Does love live on as an energy in the universe, positively and perpetually impacting those lives around it?  Physicist or philosopher I am not, but I tend to believe it does.

Future goal: I may be at a crossroads, but, whichever journey I choose, do it with love. Love for the people in my life wherever I may find myself, love for learning, love for growing, love for the beauty of this great planet, love for myself, love for the challenges that motivate me to change, love for good food, love for routine, love for adventure, love for the questions, love for the answers. It is the love I generate and share that will endure beyond my physical life. Start now in my quest to develop a legacy of love.

Relax, Don’t Take It Personally

Good morning and Happy Friday!

I hope you are enjoying a blissful week or at least looking forward to a weekend of bliss.

My week has been a bit less than blissful but I am hopeful for a turnaround this weekend. This week, I have found myself the recipient of rather sharp criticism from family, some of it valid and some of it not. I will spare you the gory details. The consistent thread running through these less-than-blissful moments seems to be my propensity to take things personally. As such, I have decided the therapy I need to process and hopefully resolve my distress is the very writing of this article.  And then I plan to let it go!

TOP 10 REMINDERS TO MYSELF

10. When my ego seeks approval from others, I give other people the power to influence how I feel about myself. Only I have the power to define who I am and how I feel about myself.

9. People tend to project. Alot. They project their own thoughts and feelings about themselves and their lives onto other people. Realize their hurtful comments are about them and not me.

8. Practice self-compassion. Honor and respect what makes me human. I will fail and make mistakes, this is the reality of the human experience and it is okay.

7. Be still with my distress. Experience it mindfully without avoiding it, overidentifying with it, trying to distract from it or dramatizing it. With stillness comes clarity, growth and healing

6. Focus on the positive and what is going right in my life rather than what is going wrong. For starters, I just made a new recipe for a delicious kale salad! I am employed! I have the opportunity to watch more Breaking Bad this weekend! I will be taking a vacation next month! My sister will be visiting soon!

5. Practice negotiating the good and the bad in other people. Practice negotiating the good and the bad in myself. None of us is perfect and we are all shaped ( though not defined!) by early life experiences. Realize other people’s critical or judgemental behaviors were likely shaped by maladaptive relationships they experienced earlier in life. This may inspire understanding of and compassion for them and, in turn, reduce my anger or frustration.

4. Stop dwelling! Dwelling fosters egocentrism and self-pity. I am not a victim and I am not alone in my distress. Other people have experienced the same or worse. Seriously, stop! The world does not revolve around me.

3. Seek freedom. Relying on my inner self alone for developing a personal sense of value, purpose and worth is the ultimate freedom.

2. Keep in mind I ultimately do not answer to human beings, I answer to the universe. If my heart and soul are genuinely in alignment with the greater good of the universe, I will be fulfilling my purpose and I will be okay.

1. Express gratitude. Thank the people who judge and criticize me for motivating my personal and spiritual growth and building my character. Much thanks y’all!

Whew! I feel better already! I honestly feel more clear, relaxed and at peace. Thank you for accompanying me on this therapeutic journey.

Future goal: Listen carefully, but don’t take things personally. Practice this again and again until it becomes second nature. Then revel in the freedom.

Social Mediacrity

Hello! I hope you are enjoying an enriching week and looking forward to the holiday weekend.

I, for one, have recently found myself grappling with my love-hate relationship with Facebook. While it’s no secret I highly value social media, I am embarrassed to admit there’s something about Facebook that makes me feel… what’s the word…. uneasy, or, occasionally, terrible. Trust me, these feelings have motivated quite a bit of self-examination on my part.

Why does the image of the blushing family of five adorned in matching fleece sipping cocoa at the beautiful ski resort irk me so? Is it as simple as jealousy? Do these pictures awaken the midlife crisis beast, arousing worries of lack of generativity or excitement in my own life?

The more I think about it, I realize it’s that some of these Facebook images just seem too perfect. Now, before I run the risk of offending you, let me say I think it’s important to celebrate and share the stories of our families, travel, successes and personal triumphs. I personally delight in reading and sharing these stories, I really do.

However, that being said, since joining Facebook I notice I feel compelled to present images of my life in a way that sort of crops out the unpleasantness. This realization has raised some questions for me. Why present a one-dimensional version of myself rather than my whole self, acknowledging flaws, mistakes, failures, successes, joy, sadness and all? Is my unease with Facebook related to failing to be completely authentic?

To this extent, I have been seriously contemplating what it would be like for my Facebook page to reflect a more authentic version of myself, just to dive in and and practice social mediacrity ( yep, I just did that!),  if you will. Perhaps juxtaposed to the poised picture of me in a beautiful dress, I will post a picture of just having woken up in the morning, bite guard and all. Maybe next to the photo of my husband and me hiking in Hawaii, I’ll post one of us arguing about who is going to make dinner. Probably not as palatable or enjoyable to view, but definitely more real.

I’ve reached the conclusion that, for me, the vexation of  Facebook is its capacity to be a platform for presenting a one-dimensional version of self. This creates the illusion it is not okay to be struggling, flawed, bored, sad, and/or sitting at home on a Friday night binge-watching Breaking Bad. In other words, that it is not okay to be wholly who you are.

To shamelessly quote Henry David Thoreau, “Be yourself- not your idea of what you think somebody else’s idea of yourself should be.” Living authentically, in my opinion, is true freedom.

Future goal: Get comfortable with all of who I am. Don’t be afraid to show the totality of myself to other people. Let the demonstration of success in my life include the success of being able to accept my flaws and failures. Strive for the freedom of being authentic.

 

 

 

 

e.f. Brave Pay It Forward Contest

Greetings!

As a special thanks to my impressive readers, I would like to invite you to participate in a contest.

Between now and next Sunday, 1/18/15, 5:00 PM ET tweet your idea for a simple, everyday way to pay it forward in 2015. Please be sure to include @efbrave and #efbravepif in your tweet in order to be entered.

Each participant will be entered into a random drawing to win a $5.00 Starbucks eGift Card. The winner will be announced on Sunday 1/18/15.

As an added bonus, your brilliant ideas may be included in a future e.f. Brave post.

Good luck and wishing you a wonderful start to your week!

Please note: This contest is not officially sponsored by Starbucks.

Across the Universe

Good evening!

While stuck in traffic today heading to work bracing myself for the chaos that was soon to greet me, I wondered if the universe generally works for or against me. Was the recent decision not to fund my research proposal a sign it is working against me? Or now that I will have more time for blogging, is it a sign it is working for me? I tend to believe the universe is a force of good working for me. And for you. I also believe making a decision about how to perceive the universe is one of the most fundamental and paramount decisions a person can make.

TOP 10 SIGNS THE UNIVERSE HAS MY BACK

10. bareMinerals BARESKIN foundation. Okay, this is vain, but the coverage is fantastic!

9. At the beginning of my burgeoning mid-life crisis, my sister, not knowing what was brewing, sent me a personalized necklace on which my initials were fashioned. Carrie Bradshaw-esque, yes, but it was just the reminder I needed to believe in myself.

8. The walking trails in the woods near my neighborhood. Quietly being in the simplistic beauty of nature is where I feel most calm, connected and whole. The trails are always there willing to accept me in a gentle yet powerful embrace. Thank you Mother Nature!

7. The Beatles. Enough said!

6. Proton pump inhibitors. This may sound ridiculous, but I developed an acute onset of reflux about six months ago. Without PPIs I would probably be curled up in the fetal position somewhere.

5. I swear, whenever I find myself ruminating on negative and anxious thoughts, I look outside to see a flock of birds take off in unison. This always brings a smile to my face.

4. My Twitter followers. Reading about all of you has seriously restored my faith in humanity.

3. My flower box. When we first bought our house, on a mission to beautify, I bought a flower box for the window. I watered and fed it painstakingly but the flowers would not grow. The anemic-looking box became an eyesore. Right around this time, my husband and I were planning to leave for vacation. Defeated, I decided to water the box once more before we left and accept the inevitable outcome. When we returned from vacation, I was shocked to see the flowers had not only grown, but had thrived! An abundance of glorious color greeted us on return. My flower box reminds me to let go and allow the intelligence of the universe to take the lead.

2. Books. I am a complete nerd. There is nothing I love to do more than to read and to learn. The ability to be transported by immersing myself in a good book is truly divine.

1. People. I have found I meet certain people in my life just when I most need their particular strengths to grow, learn and inch closer to enlightenment. I often only realize it retrospectively and many years later. Incredible!

Albert Einstein said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

Future goal: Choose to see the miracle.

Embrace Your (Off- Pitch, Nails-to-the-Chalkboard) Voice

Hello!

I hope everyone is enjoying a delightful and illuminating weekend. Please forgive some possible clumsiness in today’s post, I am typing with a band-aid around my finger after unceremoniously dropping a two-pound weight on it (ouch). I am hoping the physical pain will not translate in my writing! I suppose I should tolerate the imperfection, as per my New Year’s resolution and my last post, “Good Enough is Enough”. Here’s to creating today’s good-enough post with a band-aid cutting off circulation in my finger and generating a typo in pretty much every other word!

This weekend I was reflecting on my recent foray into violin lessons. Remember that pesky mid-life crisis I mentioned? What better way to assuage the angst than to uncover your prodigious musical self? Before starting lessons, I envisioned myself as a slab of marble simply waiting to be sculpted into a masterpiece, the materialization of this beautiful creation thwarted only by my prior unfortunate decision to attend medical school and complete a residency/fellowship instead of taking violin lessons and subsequently unleashing my musical gift onto the world.  I figured I may be about halfway through my life and now was my time. I excitedly imagined quitting my job, joining the symphony orchestra and consequently fulfilling my life’s purpose.  Mid-life crisis successfully averted!

It turns out playing the violin is tremendously difficult. Really, almost impossible. And, well, I SUCKED. I thought as a thirty-seven-year-old professional with a medical degree and many life experiences, I could surely make it through “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” like that six-year-old. Um, no. Please let me explain that when I say I sucked, I don’t mean it was sort of challenging to play that one scale. Rather, I mean it was often excruciatingly difficult to conjure even one bearable note from that uncooperative and disagreeable instrument.

So, with my mid-life crisis rebounding in full force, I am left with reflecting on what I learned from the damn violin. While “playing”, I found myself  timidly approaching each string, fearful of producing the inevitable grating, nails-to-the-chalkboard squeak. Using a timid approach, my playing became even worse. My teacher encouraged me to be brave and go for it, ear-piercing squeaking and all.  So, I decided to embrace my sound, a sound that, after all, reflected my well-intentioned, purpose-seeking voice in this new, albeit ill-advised venture. I began to attack each string with a sort of reckless abandon.  Over time, I found my playing improved and melodies became almost recognizable.

So you see, playing the violin taught me to develop the courage to express my voice unapologetically. When I embraced my voice, I was able to relax and just play, ready to accept the inevitable imperfections that would follow rather than trying to guard against or avoid them. This created a sense of freedom in that I realized it was permissible to showcase my flaws and that I was self-accepting enough not to be derailed by them. My playing improved and so did my enjoyment of it (well, sort of).

Future goal: We all have our own pattern of strengths and weaknesses. Accept mine.  Respect my voice. Embrace its flaws. It may falter during a meeting, it may squawk during a disagreement and it may shake as it expresses an unpopular opinion. That’s okay, because it is an expression of me, squeaking and all.  People may not agree with it and it may not be polished, but I will try to be brave enough to put it out there every day because it is mine and it deserves to be heard.

Good Enough is Enough

Happy New Year!

I hope the new year finds you inspired in your search for new adventures, fresh insights and creative expression. I have thought long and hard about my New Year’s resolution, hoping to choose one that would promote personal growth. After deciding binge-watching the entire Breaking Bad series in one week probably would not qualify, I decided my resolution would be (drumroll, please) ….

… to squash perfectionism. Really, just to macerate it beyond recognition. ( Okay, perhaps I have been watching just a bit too much Breaking Bad). Maybe just give it a light kick in the ass.

I used to take pride in perfectionism. I reveled in the perfect test score, the immaculately clean home, the freshly-done makeup and hair, and the overly detailed hospital notes. I even accepted the self-denial required to maintain perfectionism, rationalizing that sleep deprivation, lack of recreation and time away from family and friends was a worthy sacrifice to achieve perfection. At the end of the day I often felt depleted and unsatisfied, which I summarily ignored. I marched on believing that once perfection was in my grasp I could finally relax. But, achieving perfection was elusive. I realized I could always be doing more. And more. Always. Seriously, it could never stop unless I made the decision to stop it. So, here I am, older and wiser and making the decision to STOP.

Dr. Donald Winnicott termed the phrase “good enough” mother. My interpretation of this is that though initially a mother tends absolutely to the infant’s needs, once a child begins to develop and learn how to manage frustration, unequivocal attention to the child’s needs may actually be detrimental to the child’s development. It is unrealistic to believe a mother can prevent every knee scrape, solve every frustration and thwart every negative behavior. And, let’s scream it, this is OKAY! This allows the child to learn how to make mistakes, manage his/her frustration and self-soothe. This, in turn, moves the child’s development forward and equips him/her with necessary skills to adapt to the outside world. So, imperfection IS perfection?  AHA!

Could the concept of good enough be applied to all aspects of life? I plan to apply it this year and see. Perhaps I will go for a long walk with my husband in lieu of spending that extra hour reviewing the details of a lecture. I’m sure the lecture will still be good enough to the meet the residents’ educational needs. Maybe I’ll throw some spaghetti in the pot for dinner rather than trying to make that new kale au gratin casserole. Jarred spaghetti sauce, anyone? I’m sure the food will still be good enough to satisfy my husband’s appetite. You get the idea. Will good enough be enough? I don’t know, but I will keep you updated.

Future goal: What I do know is that perfectionism is my ego’s ill-fated search for value and worth from outside myself.  My future goal is to cultivate a sense of self-worth from the inside out. This may involve deepening relationships with family and friends. It may involve giving myself permission to relax, be quiet and be unproductive. It may involve new creative ventures or volunteer activities. I am pretty sure energy spent in these ways will be more productive to the development of my sense of self than keeping the house perfectly clean.  Maybe this is the new unproductive productivity. The productivity of cultivating a sense of self-worth, measured by personal growth rather than other people’s approval. I shall see.

Here’s to an imperfect 2015!

* Disclaimer: I realize some mothers may not agree with the good enough mothering concept. I do not wish to imply it is okay not to meet your child’s needs. I only wish to imply it is okay not be perfect. I also know there is nothing wrong with jarred spaghetti sauce. In fact, it’s really good.

Fear is Sticky

Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone is enjoying a magnificent holiday.

‘Tis the season and the year to evaluate decisions of the past and goals for the future. This mid-life crisis keeps roaring along!

If I could impart any advice to you lovely twentysomethings, it would be not to make decisions based on fear. In my own life, fear-based decisions have left me feeling very stuck.

Now, I am not talking about risky outdoor adventuring and the like. Fear can certainly serve a useful purpose in preventing bodily damage! Here’s what I mean…

Let’s see, there is the omnipresent fear of failure, followed by the fear of not being good enough, the fear of disappointing others, and the list goes on. When I look back on these fears now, I think, who cares?

I opted for a career in medicine for fear I could not be successful as a writer. Fear of failure- check, fear of not being good enough- check, fear of disappointing others- check. ( Does anyone know how to type an actual checkmark ? ) Now, as a physician, I earn a steady paycheck, but I find myself dissatisfied. I’m not motivated to tackle the research projects or prepare the lectures, which is making it difficult to ascend to higher positions in my field. So, I find myself stuck.

As a couple, we have opted up to this point not to have children. This unfortunate decision stemmed from a maddeningly wide variety of fears, some conscious and others previously unconscious- fear of the unknown, fear of not being good parents, fear of loss of control, fear of financial insecurity, perhaps even fear of selflessness. My deepest fear now is that it may be too late. So, again, I find myself stuck.

Future goal: In my 37th year I plan to pry myself from this sticky mess. I know the fear will be there, but I will not allow it to stymie me. I will try to move through it mindfully and as frictionlessly as possible, willing to accept the consequences on the other side. After all, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that I’d rather be learning from my authentically-made decisions than playing it safe with fear-based decisions. At least with learning comes growth and with growth comes movement. MUCH preferred.

Wishing you all a beautiful, safe and fearless holiday season!

 

 

 

I Celebrate My Body Electric!

Okay, I know, this title is a little too much….!

It was not until I was about 34-years-old that my relationship with my body started to improve. Trust me, there was a lot of time and energy wasted sprinting out of  the shower to avoid giant bathroom mirrors and clumsily maneuvering to switch off lamps to ensure any romantic (mis)adventures were lights-off events.

As I become older, I have grown to appreciate the gift of my body. It has carried me through desert hikes, moonlit dancing on the beach to 80’s classics, my wedding day, ski adventures, arguments, hugs, long on-call nights in the emergency room, first kisses, sleepful nights, sleepless nights, slow dances and everything in between. It has been my quiet and nonjudgmental companion. I have gratitude even for my semi-sizeable ass, which obligingly protected me during a rather nasty fall down a flight of stairs years ago.

Lesson learned: My body is awesome. Sure, there’s a fair amount of jiggling going on. I won’t lie, I still walk rather quickly out of the shower, past the mirrors and into the closet, maybe less of a sprint and more of a jog now, though. But, my body is intricate and miraculous and it moves me through the strangeness, pain and joy of my life. If life is about having a full human experience, well, it is the instrument that allows me to do that. What else can I ask for in a companion?

Future goal: I will not waste anymore time and energy avoiding my body. I will nourish it, move it and keep it strong. I will view food simply as energy for my body. I will not use the “f” word ( you know, that nasty 3-letter word). Just as steadily as my body has provided for my spirit all these years, I will respect and provide for it.