This Friday It Will End
Dear reader, allow me to let you in on a little secret. There is a difference between confidence and a sense of self-worth.
I am a confident person. I believe in myself and my actions. Others respect and seek my opinion. However, I can sometimes question my self-worth. Let me tell you more.
You may know from reading past post that I was the last child in a family of five children. The 60s was a time when parents told it as it was, without a lot of sugar coating. I knew that I was not considered an asset or a surprise blessing. Add a significant stress when I was a freshman in high school, and you have a recipe for a very angry teenager. My life could have turned out very differently than it did.
Thankfully, I had some great people in my extended life who saw something in me. They felt that I was different, in a good way. Individuals, often in the form of teachers, would seek me out and take me under their wing. For whatever reason, a number of them told me that I was destined for great things. Dear reader, I have no idea what those folks saw in me. I was mad and felt that the world didn’t give a damn about me. Despite my angst, these guides would find me, talk to me, like me, value me. They believed in me, and I wanted to believe them. Eventually, I realized that I wasn’t bound to my past; I could determine my future. I would not wallow in what others had done or not done to/for me.
The way that these two opposing forces impacted me was significant. I started to define my self-worth based on what I could accomplish, especially what I could provide to others. I have spent my life being productive, and I have felt good about myself because of it.
However, there is a negative side to such an approach. When you are not providing a service, you feel like you are no longer needed or wanted. Dear reader, I have had this hypothesis proved at times, but disproved many more. When I am in a normal state of mind, I know that there are people in my life who care about me. Like my past angels, they see something in me that they connect to. That quality is not about what I can do for them; it is about who I am. They like me for me.
Unfortunately, in times of stress, the logical part of me submits to my primitive fears. A stressful time is upon me, my partial retirement.
I told my friend and business partner Ralph, that I did NOT want any retirement celebration. My stressed mind felt that it would be an imposition for others to attend. I could not imagine that they would want to gather for the sole purpose of wishing me well. I was retiring; I no longer had anything to offer them. Ralph continued to push, despite every reason I could come up with. Finally, I told him the truth. “Why would anyone want to celebrate with me?”
Ralph, would not budge and he finally resorted to contacting my wife Julie about it. With mounting pressure, I gave in, but I imagined that I would be standing in an empty room. I imagined myself feeling awkward, then embarrassed, and ashamed. What would my wife and kids think of me? Would they be ashamed of me too?
Old tapes are hard to suppress under great stress. I gave in to Raph’s pressure, and parties were going to happen. It was my fault for saying yes, but it was too late now. I called upon my psychological toolkit. “By this time next month, it will all be over. I will heal from the embarrassment. I am strong. I can only be hurt if I allow myself to be hurt.” and so it went.
I was already getting contrary evidence from my patients. Notes and cards of thanks, little gifts of appreciation. “Doc, please find me someone just like you to take your place.” It felt wonderful, but my fear was great.
Last Sunday the festivities started, a reception at a special restaurant, everyone showed. Docs from the practice, docs that had long left, my former business partner Steve, my sister who worked at Genesis and her husband, and of course my wife and kids. Balloons bobbed, champagne flowed, and forks clicked on plates full of food. People reminisce and told stories from the past. My good advice, my bad guitar playing, my crazy socks… and so it went. I felt cared for. The room had been booked for 2 hours, at hour 3 we finally exited.
The next day was an office reception; fear once again welled up in me. The room was packed; the party was put together with thought and care. I’m known for getting packages from Amazon; my retirement cake looked like Amazon boxes. They even made one of the layers sugar-free, as I no longer eat sugar. People took pictures, asked questions, made conversation. I was presented with a beautiful memory book that the staff created for me. It contained letters from doctors, therapist, and patients who I had served. I opened the scrapbook style book and saw the care that each page was created with. I thought that I would burst out into tears, so I closed it with the promise that it would be explored when I was in a better state of mind.
At the end of my last office hours day, a patient dropped off a poem that she wrote for me. It was clever and sweet, more tears.
Today is Thursday. Tonight my office voicemail gets redirected. I’ll call the office once or twice tomorrow to approve prescription refills. This Friday at 5 PM my private practice career will end. I will still be working at another workplace a few days a week, but my private practice will be behind me. I remember when I received my letter of acceptance to Northwestern University’s medical school in 1978. The whole world was before me. Another chapter has now closed.
I continue to be taught lessons if I allow myself to listen. I know many of you who will read this have little or no faith in a Higher Power. I am not trying to convert you. However, I see God in my life on a daily basis. Once again He has stressed me and pushed me to the limit so I could learn and challenge my false beliefs. Amazing.