All posts by Dr. Mike

Walk

My senses are confused this evening.
I walk the path from my house to the river.
The air is hot and moist. The air of July.
The fragrance is of fallen leaves. The fragrance of October.
The DuPage is shallow and slow-moving. The river of August.
The dusk is early. The light of September.
The memory is of schooldays. The memory of childhood.
I walk aware. Aware that all moments are unique.
Transient, never to be repeated.
I walk and I celebrate the gift of today

The mighty DuPage river. Slow and pondering.

Change

Walking in the dark, I think. First random scattered thoughts, without theme or form. Then ideas more focused, still loose not gelled. Slowly, a greater theme emerges as I silently plod forward. The environment around me synchronizes with the milieu inside of me.

Today’s theme started to consolidate as I passed a truck stopped in the middle of Jefferson Avenue. It was out of place in the pre-dawn morning. I spied another truck out of place, then another.

As I approached the Starbucks on Chicago Avenue their reason, and my theme appeared. The last truck was stringing holiday lights in the trees, preparing for Christmas season ahead. The season was changing, change happens.

My life is not static. I am not fixed in time like the photographs that I take. The world around me is changing. I am changing. Often I have little control over either.

The lights are being strung in the trees. In a few months they will be removed. I celebrate their appearance, and I will mourn their removal. My life moves forward and I celebrate and mourn my changes simultaneously. Change like so many things is neither good nor bad, it just is.

What will change bring me today? How will I view it? Will I accept it or fight it? The only certainty is that it will occur.

On Retirement

Dear reader, please note that I wrote the following post in late July, as I was flying from Seattle to Chicago.  My retirement letter was just sent out, and I was returning back to my practice (from vacation) in a few days.


I have to admit that I find it uncomfortable. Probably more so than others. I dislike the uncertainty of the unknown. I bask in the comfort of routine. It has always been that way for me, but I feel that this tendency has increased with the increase in my years.

I am a creature of habit, not one to seek adventure unless the benefits were great. Like most stances that are reasonably reasonable, my position has both served and hindered me.
My conservative ways have given me security, comfort, and a degree of financial independence. My conservative ways have prevented me from new experiences and new growth. In some ways, it has been a toss up. Like most, I am a product of my personality. I accept this truth much of the time.

My life has been changing, my years have made me ever more conservative. My spirit has made me ever more adventuresome. I view this phase of life as both exciting and confusing.

I realize that I have to push myself if I hope to move forward. I have had the comfort of a professional persona. A role that allowed me to be instantly identified. A title that gave me immediate status. That is now about to change as I redefine the fundamental essence of who I am. I look forward to this change, but I am also fearful of it. It is easy to quote, “With power comes responsibility.” This is very true, but it is equally true that with power comes power. Soon I will lose that power and once again I will become the working class kid from the Southwest side of Chicago who wonders if he can make it in the big world.

I made my decision to leave private practice over 10 years ago. A lifetime ago. A decision made out of desperation. Overweight and physically sick I saw no other option.

My subconscious aware of my spouse’s financial insecurity combined with my own ambition to be successful, I worked ever harder. The more that I worked, the sicker I became. Finally, I realized that my only solution would come from moving outside my established norm and to a new equilibrium.

I told Julie that I would leave private practice 10 years ago. I’m sure she took my distant prediction with a grain of salt. Ten years sounds like a lifetime. For me, it allowed a window of hope off on the horizon. A window where I could work less and explore those things that I felt I was intended to do.

Then things started to change. I have chronicled many of them in previous posts, so I won’t belabor their details again. I reduced stress, faced traumas, worked through traumas, moved towards health. Slowly, my overweight and sick body became thinner and healthier. Slowly my energy increased and my mind cleared.

Now my fear of becoming ever sicker has been countered by the reality of what I am leaving, and what I am moving towards. My distant goal served an abstract purpose. My current reality not only comforts me, but it also challenges me. What if I can’t do what I have set out to do? What if I lose myself as I lose my professional self? What if….?

Such fears serve no purpose, and so I make effort to place them in their proper perspective. However, more challenges continue to emerge.

My retirement letter has been sent to my patients; patients will react. For some of them, I am just a commodity that can easily be changed out for a newer shinier model. For others, I will have to absorb their anger. I have been a “provider of services” for them and my leaving will be an inconvenience. For others, both patient and doctor will have to deal with the pain of the ending of our relationship.

I have worked hard to maintain professional boundaries with my patients, but that hasn’t
prevented me from forming bonds with them and having them forming bonds with me. I will miss them, and I suspect that some of them will also miss me. This part of my transition saddens me deeply. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The positives of moving forward are countered by the negatives of what I am leaving behind. A life lesson that is ever repeated.

I have some general plans for my future. Now more physically fit I can see some of them moving from theory to reality. Yet, I am still hindered by myself. My shyness. My fear of intruding on others. My desire to succeed and to be recognized.

I know that I need to conquer these hindrances, or at least quiet them. I have to move past my shyness, I have to move past my childhood based fear that I offer little, and therefore I am a waste of time to others. I have to recognize that success comes from achieving my goal rather than how many accolades that are sent my way. These changes sound simple, but they are not for me. They are my new Mount Everest. I have claimed mountains before, I will climb this one too. Climbing mountains is what I have done all of my life.

My immediate plans are simple. To continue to hone my basic creative skills and pray. Pray that one of the 100 amorphous ideas that I have floating in my brain solidifies so I can focus with greater purpose and energy.

I have to accept that I will need to grieve many losses. The loss of my professional life. The loss of patients who I have been able to connect with. The loss of power that my profession has afforded me.

I will also have to accept the uncertainty of a new life and direction. One in which my efforts may be met with rejection or ridicule.

I move ever forward, grateful that I have been given another chance to rediscover myself. A chance to grow. A chance to think new thoughts.

Today my goals are to realize that change happens and that I am at the exact place that I should be at this very moment.

My First Time

It was my first time. At the age of 64 I image that most would have thought that I would have done it many times before, but that wasn’t the case. I had thought about doing it once, but that was over 25 years ago. I was younger and stronger then. It sounded like an intriguing and exciting thing to do, but I never got around to it. To be honest, the only reason that I did it now was because of Julie. She felt that we should do it. I guess a lot of couple do it and don’t think twice about it. The idea wasn’t alien to me, I have to admit that I was intrigued. Naturally, I was also a bit nervous. Julie said it would be OK.

I’m used to traveling where the transporters goal is quantity rather than quality. However, I remember a time in the distant past when that was not the case. My first flight was spectacular. I traveled to Hawaii at the age of 19 accompanied by friends, and at the sensible cost of $300. A cost that included lodging at a string of budget motels. The Boeing 474 that took us was first class, as was the gourmet meal that was served on tiny real china. The flight attendant took a special interest in our little group, adding to the illusion that were were closeted royalty.

Like a junkie’s first high, this experience was never to be repeated. Air travel is now something I endure. An experience where I feel grateful for a half of a cup of lukewarm coffee served up in a paper cup.

I was unprepared for what I experienced. Friendly, helpful, smiling… they guided me from station to station. Up this ramp, down that velvet roped maze. Always smiling, eye contact mandatory. It felt good, yet a bit disconcerting. My first time on a cruise. My first time to the wilds of Alaska.

Cruising on the mighty Norwegian Jewel. Gigantic in size, a small city afloat. My every need tended to. A place where the steward calls me by name. A place where my ever ravenous son William can order two complete breakfasts plus a side, and the server doesn’t blink. A place where someone makes my bed and puts out fresh towels in my boat style bathroom. A place where my questions are always met with a smile and a polite response. It feels good. It feels unnatural.

There are dangers at sea, but they don’t present as super storms or pirate’s ships. Rather, they arrive more subtly. Endless food of every type available 23 out of the 24 hours of a day. A soft mattress that whispers, “Stay with me, you can go to the fitness center tomorrow.” A ship’s credit card that makes any purchase magically possible, as the bill only arrives at the end of the trip.

I am learning to navigate these dangers, but with difficulty. I’m trying to eat sensibly, but my questioning GI system is letting me know that my choices still need to be adjusted. I did make it to the gym, but at a time later than I would have liked. As far as the ships credit card is concerned, for now it is a wild card. However, I can tell you that I have not purchased an Omega watch or an original oil painting.

Today is a day at sea, with our first port-of-call tomorrow morning. Soon it will be time for lunch. I hope to be more controlled in my choices. Perhaps I will go to the Stardust theater for some family friendly entertainment this evening. My original plans to visit the pool have been dashed by strong winds and frigid temperatures. I’m on a cruise. I’m relaxing. I’m slowing down.

Today I am grateful for first times. My goal is to continue to seek more of them.