I have had a lot of time to write and think this shift. It is one of the many gifts of the work I choose to do. When I am on the clock, I have to be here and not at home. So, when things are slow, I get paid to reflect, write and be still.
Between a new baby and my wife and I returning to work, the last couple of months hasn’t had a lot of time for thinking and reflecting. It also hasn’t presented a lot of time for writing.
So, as I have gotten back into writing the blog again, I am coming at it anew. I must decide why I am doing this. I do enjoy it, sure. But I enjoy a lot of other things I have neglected – why am I not doing those?
What is the point of this blog? Why did I start writing a blog? Is it still serving the original purpose, or new one?
I Had a Story to Tell
After moving back to my wife’s home City, I felt fairly adrift in Medicine. I read a lot of other physician blogs, mainly motivated by a desire to learn how to be as effective as possible at paying off my loans.
My loans were the last thing that bound me to Medicine, which I was furious with. I found out a lot of other physicians were struggling with what medicine is. M’s story over at Reflection of a Millennial Doctor particularly resonated with me.
I began responding to posts in the comments. Eventually, I felt like I was writing so much in comments I was in danger of looking like I was trying to take it over. I must have had something to say.
I would like to say I tell my story for other people, so it might help them, or make them feel less alone. Maybe, I kid myself, it will help residents and medical students make decisions with eyes wide open. In reality, those are ancillary benefits. They give me a little bit of a warm feeling inside, but they aren’t why I started this blog.
I simply needed to write my story. I just had to get it out. My anger, grief, pain, and disillusionment, were just too much for me to bear alone. I had left my previous job without so much as exit interview, they were afraid to hear my story. So, I had to spit it all out. And, I had learned I couldn’t tell people I knew.
It was too much for most people to hold. Some people wanted to make it all better – impossible. My partners just wanted to pretend nothing had happened – the worst response. I just needed to get it out.
The first couple weeks of the blog were just vomiting pain. I just sat at my computer and wrote and cried and seethed and cried. A few people have read this blog and some of you have said some nice things, which I acknowledge and appreciate.
Yet, the act of putting the words on the screen was all that mattered. The kind words were nice, but it was the saying of the thing. The putting it into order on a page which made the difference.
I was turning rage and pain and grief into something with a beginning, middle, and maybe, I hoped, an end. Building a narrative was the only helpful thing. When writiers say they need to write, they have to write, I get it now.
It is thing you have power over which seems to make the burden lighter.
Yet, If it Works, the Pain Ebbs
Yet, it took the loss of a newborn daughter and the chaos of a life plan destroyed to get me to that point. But, with time and counseling and a new baby, the pain is ebbing. Like a violent surf slowing into the gentle lapping of waves on a shore. The emotion is still there, but my continent is no longer being battered into the sea.
As I look back at a lot of what I wrote about in the beginning, I can see how the grief and loss gave way to the anger and pain over a medical system which fails us at every turn. The medical system hasn’t gotten any better, but I have figured out how to keep it from it swallowing me, for now.
As time has passed, I no longer need to write. Yet, I still do. Why? I like telling stories. The challenge of conveying a feeling, a place, and emotion in words is interesting.
Moreover, as I have lost and I now bear witness to the struggles and losses of others, the stories seem to hold some hope. They are how we transmute pain into meaning.
Learning how to tell them seems as much doctoring as the duoneb treatment and steroids I administered to patient having an asthma attack this morning. Chekhov did it, William Carlos Williams did it. Bulgakov did it, W. Somerset Maugham did it.
Many have gone before. The medical machine is too brutal for some of us to live our whole lives in. Before losing my daughter, I might have kept on for a few more years going full tilt. But, some wounds change us, or expose who we really were.
I have learned how to feel in a new way. I cannot bear the suffering, despair, and quixotic denial of our mortality full time. There are those of us who can only be part-time doctors.
We must find other ways to thrive and hold onto our humanity. I think writing is one way. Maybe once my loans are done, I may try and make a real go at the writing life.
Until then, the blog serves as practice, as a kind of journal of snippets of ideas, people, and places. A repository of half-baked scenes and soft-boiled emotions.
I guess it is a good enough reason to keep at it.