in my mind, I am overcome by the what.. if…
My fears diaphanous, dark
elude my grasp
Obfuscate and confuse,
threaten to damp my spark
Let me count and name
drag them screaming one by one
let me pull each into
truth, light, sun.
let me vigorously scrub,
tear apart, burn
each mildewy spore
open my mind to light
dry them out
build once more.
Here they are:
1. I am too stupid (or at least more dumb than my counterparts)
You slimy, insipid beast. You grow into every dream like yeast. First puffing me up in my imagined braineosity only to punch me down with worthless imaginings.
The truth is that I am neither savant nor fool. I cannot be omniscient nor omnipresent, only omnivore. The truth is that I worked hard enough and performed well enough to come through the filter to here. This is truth for the majority of my peers. When I feel worthless and stupid, another will feel the same. It is only in puffing ourselves up to appear clever that we develop pernicious shame.
After the realization of my average-ness and the average aptitude of my peers, I am free. Honesty, truth and forthcoming will be the new beams to replace those rotten by pride and shame-- real stupidity.
2. I am too old (or have wasted too much time)
You deranged, shallow boar. Your desire in life is one: more. Power, money, sex, your altar, your goal. You tempt me to a life which ignores my very soul.
In fact, however, I have not wasted one year. Each journey was necessary to bring me from where I began to here. Others' journeys are different, but in the end I know only one, my own. Reaching the MD is not life’s only or most ultimate dream. I wanted to develop what kind of human I would be. I wanted to journey with others, I wanted to learn about my growth. I wanted to dwell with the poor and downtrodden, I wanted about myself to know. So yes, I am 6 years older than my youngest peer. But what have I gained in the interior?
3. I am not like others.
You are the weakest and most ephemeral of all. Your lightweight punch can only knock me down after I fall.
No, I am not married with children or buying a house. No I have not reached the plateau on which my life will peter out. Instead, I am climbing the mountain which is mine alone. The face is craggy and steep. It may require the careful planning of footholds for the path is solid stone. Others’ fleeting imaginations show only a rough shape: I cannot judged by it. Furthermore, I know not another’s path, way, crags and leaps. I have never seen it.
4. Money, sex, and power fears
For retirement, let me save a million dollars in the richest country on earth, circia 1975, so that when I am 100, I can live on the best food and wine. Zimbabwe.
Let me find a big, strong man, who has a calling and a vision. I will simply follow him. My father and mother.
Let me rise to the top, never stopping to learn, to kneel, to change, so that I call all the shots, destroying everything my way.
How can I desire that which I know is the folly of all mankind? How can I be afraid to lose what my God, out of love, protected me from having?
In money, I will have what I need. I will pay off my debts. Better yet, if I am driven to public service, I would allow myself to chose the occupation after all which is best for me.
Regarding relationships, I have learned to value my call. I believe this is singleness. Do we all have to be frantically marrying, producing ever more hungry children? Where is the aunt, where is the carer of orphans, where is the sister, where is the fellow journey woman? Here am I.
Power. For a brief moment, during which I hated the person I watched myself become, I wanted a seat in the world's broiler room. Never did I feel so empty, lost and untrue. Never did I feel so strongly that life had become worthless, hollow, lonely. Never do I desire to be the shell of a human in a suit dressed up to just exterior. I want to be real, to connect, offer real help, to my fellow man and woman. Instead of emptiness, humility will give me the power to reach, to connect, because I will know that I am one of them.
In this exercise, I learned a few things:
A. My fears are “all about me”- They are all about comparing the vulnerable person I know myself to be with the “I’ve got it together” projections of others. Neither is true.
B. My fears are “all about me”- They are not about others. Medicine will, at it’s truest, about others. About providing the best care for them, about doing my best work for them, about connecting with them, about being there during their lives’ most critical moments. If I allow myself to actually think about the privilege of this connection with others that I am embarking upon, or the incredible things I will be able to do for others, it will bring me back to my original intents. I did not want to do medicine when all I knew of it was people crazy for money or a system that shut out the poor. I wanted to practice medicine when I saw the ability Dr. Lythe had to serve his patients, to help them, to repair fistulas, to diagnose a typhoid epidemic. I wanted the ability my grandpa had to provide care for members of his community facing difficulties from pregnancy and childhood to old age and the end of life. A physician is the role I wanted to play in community, a way I wanted to serve some of the most basic needs I saw around me. It is all about the way I interact WITH OTHERS. In this, some of the non- traditional path physicians I've known have been the most encouraging and affirming to interact with. Let me strive to be like them.
C. My fears are “all about me”- They ignore totally the aspect of God and His spiritual leading. I have been on a spiritual journey, one I knew I needed, one I will never leave. If this love and sacrifice is where He leads me, I can follow. Multiple times through the years He has orchestrated my path and made it a much more interesting, beautiful journey than I could ever have imagined. Can I trust Him even now to continue?