Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Three Things

Most days, I feel like I am a contestant on that continuously running game show "The Price Is Right".  I go from room to room, often wondering what is behind Door #1 - surprised at what I find behind Door #3 - occasionally wishing I never when into Door #2.
This can be really exciting. (Not as exciting as a carotid endarterectomy or a colonoscopy, I'll admit, but hey, this is outpatient medicine.) There is always something interesting behind the next door.
It can also be fatiguing.  This morning brought two cases of valley fever, three cases of depression, four episodes of constipation, two cases of shingles, and four upper respiratory infections. That was just part of my morning. Oh, there was a nice external plump hemorrhoid and a really ugly looking wart for kicks. (No, I didn't kick them, but it sounded nice, didn't it?)  Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy what I do.  It is rewarding, but I have found over the last 10 years that I have to work faster and faster and see an increasing number of people with increasingly complex medical problems to cover the overhead.  This is the fatiguing part.
I'm sure I'm not alone in my feelings. Many people I see in the office are working harder in their fields for less and many are without work, looking for a job.  There seems to be a general feeling of worry and fatigue among many that I see.
In looking for relief to my fatigue, I came across a few thoughts.  The first was that of John White. "There are three kinds of people in the world: those that can't stand Picasso, those that can't stand Raphael, and those who've never heard of either of them."
That didn't help.
The second was a comment made by Albert Einstein. "He who marches joyfully to the music rank and file has already earned my contempt.  He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would suffice."
Really? Now, I just feel bad.
But, I was reminded of "three things" at the New Year that seemed to lighten the load. The Holidays were wonderful at my house.  I hope they were at yours.  Not that great gifts were showered, or that the Christmas fudge was better than ever this year, or that I got exactly what I wanted for Christmas, but that my understanding of a person's basic needs was enlightened.
A drugstore psychiatrist was once heard stating that a healthy psyche really only needs three things:
1. Someone to Love
2. Something Important to Do
3. Something Pleasant to Look Forward to
The holidays were refreshing, as I had a chance to spend time with those that I love, my wife and children, and to think about extended family and friends that are close to my heart.  Taking a little time each day to think about or do something simple with those you love is energizing.  I was involved in a serious auto accident recently and for a brief time during that ordeal I was not sure how much longer I would spend upon this earth. It drove home the point to me that this life is short and we really have no idea what tomorrow holds for us. I have found that this just takes a little focus. In the words of Albert Einstein, "Any man that can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves."  I have committed myself to focusing a little time each day on making sure that I can express my love in meaningful ways.
Each of us needs a task.  That task needs to be important in some way.  I have had many patients over the years arrive at retirement and within a few short month, looking forward to enjoying the "easy life," become depressed, irritable, and reclusive because they are no longer contributing in a productive way to something meaningful.  We need to feel like we are making a difference. We need to feel like we are making a contribution in some way.  This keeps us healthy and it keeps us strong.  It keeps us engaged. Find something in your day that is meaningful to those around you or your community, and make it a priority to contribute your skills and energies to improve this world because you were here today. To put it in the words of one of our generations great thinkers, "Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value."
Lastly, we each need something enjoyable to look forward to.  King Solomon of the biblical Old Testament states that "where there is no vision, the people perish" (Proverbs 29:18). How much happier a person is when they have something pleasant to work toward or to look forward to.  Our day to day lives often involve a great deal of repetition.  This can bring monotony and boredom. Looking forward to even a simple change of pace each week can be invigorating and rejuvenating.  I have found that spending an hour or two each week working on a hobby, reading a good book, taking my wife on a date, taking my child for an ice cream, or taking a trip to someplace interesting can be welcome activities you look forward too all week. These need be expensive, yet can be refreshing and renewing for your outlook on the week Commit yourself to planning a simple activity this week you look forward experiencing.

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