Monday, October 25, 2010

earning an a-plus

I have been back at work for a couple of weeks now…”helping out” while one of our colleagues recuperates from reconstructive surgery on her leg. Last year, about this same time, I filled in for her while she enjoyed her dream vacation…and then I subbed for her when she returned, slipped on a patch of ice and shattered her leg. So, I’m happy to be able to help.

Unfortunately…I now remember what it was that drove me to retire in the first place. It had nothing to do with the patients. Caring for them has always been my passion. Nor did it have anything to do with the long hours, the stress, the burdensome paperwork, fear of litigation, or frustration with the pharmaceutical and health insurance industries…aggravations that follow us through the day like a gaggle of ugly ducklings. Actually, the problem was simpler than that. I’d grown older. Physically and intellectually a bit slower. And yet…there was so much more I wanted to do.

I haven’t journalled since I returned to the office. Not a single creative thought has crossed my mind. I haven’t written a word and I’ve scarcely found time to read. I have, however, tended to the needs of a full schedule of patients--people who were sick or worried that they were, patients who were in pain, people who were sad, angry, confused, and vulnerable enough for it to affect their mental and physical health. And I hope I was able to give them the time, attention and care they deserved…the relief, encouragement, or consolation they sought.

I’ve also managed to clean my house, walk and train the dog, prepare meals, wash the car, catch up on the laundry, pay my bills, and run necessary errands…the kind of things that are required to maintain some semblance of a civilized existence.

I’ve done all of that…but I haven’t written. I haven’t been inspired to write. I haven’t had the time it takes to nestle into the creative corner of my over-taxed brain. I haven’t had the energy for it.

The same thing may happen to you. Whatever it is that demands your attention, time, and energy may prevent you from beginning your story or poem, your painting or sculpture, your song or dance. And if you are lucky enough to have started, the same obligations may draw you away from time to time. But if you’re like me, you’ll find your way back in spare moments. You’ll work hard to cross a few things off your list of “things people want from me or expect from me or demand from me” so that you can indulge your soul with your art. If need be, you’ll fight for time to play at the keyboard or easel, to pick up your notebook and pen, to hum a few bars. And this is all it will take for you to begin…or to begin again.

What are you waiting for? What needs to be crossed off your list?

“We are traditionally rather proud of ourselves
 for having slipped creative work
in there between the domestic chores and obligations.
I’m not sure we deserve such big A-pluses for that.”
--Toni Morrison--
By the time I post again, I’ll be finished at the office and I will have returned from a medical convention in Baltimore. I’m eager to set my imagination free, to play with words again, and to move ahead with my manuscript. Talk to you soon.

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