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Where are the keys to my happiness? Most days, it doesn’t feel like I have them; it’s like I have handed the keys over to my children, my husband, my family, my patients, my co-workers, etc. Some days, it feels like the keys to my happiness must have been thrown in a lake.
There are so many (little) things that chip away at daily happiness- the patients who ask me how old I am, the perpetual Boys’ Club at work (it doesn’t go away when you are an attending), the cross looks from my children when I ask them to eat green beans, the dog pooped on the floor (again), running late, temper tantrums, etc. By the end of the week, I wonder if I have done a single thing right all week long.
If I stop and think, what does a “successful” day look like, I realize it is absolutely ridiculous. I must wake up refreshed from a full night’s sleep, go for a jog, look like my hair and make up has been professionally done, have a fresh and healthy breakfast made for my children (which we enjoy together at the table), get out the door on time (and without drama), get to work on time, see every patient on time (if not early), get all my notes done immediately, get the kids before 5 PM, make a fresh, healthy meal for dinner (which we again eat together at the table), get the kids bathed, ready for bed, and bedtime stories done, have a meaningful hour or two each night with my husband, and get to bed by 9 PM.
How often do you think I get all of these things done in a day? Almost never.
Follow up question: how much of these things are even within my locus of control? Very few.
This means that unless I meet this (ridiculous and wholly unrealistic) definition of “success,” I am failing, each and every day. That means that after being “successful” for so many years, I am “failing,” frequently. But who can live up to this standard? No one. There are daily pressures and stresses from all sides, and there are many things that seek to take control over my life- and I was letting them. Worse still, I was completely unaware of it. Had my best friend told me this is what she expected from herself in order to feel good about her day, I would tell her she needs to re-examine her definition of success.
There it is: it’s time to change the definition of success. It’s time to take back the parts of my life that I have let go: my own happiness.
I have long said that we cannot define ourselves by our careers, relationships, ability to procreate, etc. I experienced a proverbial rude awakening recently, when I met some new friends. Who am I? Seems a simple enough question; only, I couldn’t answer it. I don’t know.
I know who I used to be- before. Before I had a child. Before I lost a child. Before I was an attending. Before I was pulled in a million directions, responsible for so many other people’s well-being (and yes, I realized I believed I was responsible for their happiness), I knew who I was. I watched the movies I wanted to watch. I painted, frequently. I wrote, frequently. I refinished furniture. “Who am I” was catalogued in this blog- but I haven’t had time for that girl in a very long time.
It’s time to make time. Before I tackle the million-and-one issues surrounding being a female physician, I need to start with myself. For the next few weeks, that’s the first issue I’ll tackle- making time for oneself. Find some time for yourself this week; carve out the time.