Carnival

Welcome to the carnival

I offer all manner of novelties to delight you
Are your thoughts as wild as a flying trapeze?
I’ve got pills to set your mind at ease
Does your heart feel like it has been trampled by an elephant?
You don’t need to use booze to get bent
I’ll flood your blood with chemical love and adjust the dose to fit like a glove
I’ve perfected my performance to be your ideal physician despite my perpetual exhaustion, hanger and burn out
Ignoring my own pain as I eliminate yours
Neither one of us is listening to the sacred wisdom of our bodies
I suffer long and hard so that you don’t have to feel a thing
In my side-show alley you’ll see that if you want more than an endless stream of candy refills, if you want me to be your shaman instead of your drug dealer, at any time you can feel your feelings instead of suppress them
Take a plunge from the high dive on the wild horse of your unmedicated body
Hear your healing lion’s roar
Let your self-expression soar
Allow yourself to fall into the safety net of the universe
Trust that you belong, that you are a star just as you are
Juggle fire and meet yourself with humor when gravity makes its presence known
Allow yourself to be shot from the cannon of self-doubt, trusting that you will be ok
If healing is a series of flaming hoops
The transformative way out is through
Show yourself what you can do
Dance to uplifting music every day
Cultivate strength and flexibility in body and brain
Remind yourself it is normal to feel insane
In this seemingly crazy world, only you can take the reins
Be the ringleader of your life
It ain’t me, babe
Though I have the hard-won power to prescribe the goodies you crave
To be in control of ourselves we must give up control of everything else
Welcome to the big time
The show can’t go on without you
I applaud you
My eyes are open to witness your marvels and miracles

Bouncy Ball

Resilient sphere of color

I throw you down but you only bounce back higher

Dancing down the stream
You get caught on rocks and fallen leaves
I free you and follow you down the babbling brook
Your journey is again halted by forest debris
I dislodge you with a stick and you bound onward
Carried effortlessly by the water
I was told that all rivers flow to the ocean
I am determined to travel there with you, to see this through
Then I learn that water sometimes moves underground
Branch still in hand, we are both stuck on land
I didn’t account for this
Years later, I am an adult in a high-pressure profession
Just now pausing after years of running
As if I’ve been chasing a ball down a stream
Bouncing from one goal to the next
I am bewildered by the restless movement which only distanced me from my heart’s desires
In exchange for passing tests, I received more tests
No one ever asked me if I want to be tested
I value serenity and peace, meditation in nature
I was already where I wanted to be
When I was a girl with a rubber ball
Bring me back to that forest stream
I will stand in it
Let the cool water wash over my feet
Bouncy ball by my side
In stillness and simple satisfaction
We will stay

Workaholic

I went into medicine partly due to heartbreak

The exhaustive training of medical school and residency was a welcome albeit ineffective distraction from my sorrow and loneliness
24-hour shifts are a convenient justification for not keeping in touch with loved ones
Even though the real excuse is my social anxiety and sense of inadequacy
Living within hospital walls, I suspect that I am not the only physician who became a medical doctor to try to forget unrequited love, to escape the world of human relationships
My older colleagues work far more than they need to to make ends meet, far more than any reasonable person would work in a week
Who needs friends or feelings when you have patients and science?
Our skin grows pale under fluorescent lights
Our vision becomes shortsighted as the screens stare unblinkingly
Our hearts forget how to feel carefree
Our muscles atrophy as our brains hypertrophy
Our minds become boxed in with facts, our mental filing cabinets overflow
I am a recovering workaholic working alongside workaholics who do not appear to be in recovery
Perhaps they suspect the same of me
Heads down in the trenches, none of us can know another’s heart
We can only know our own heart, if we listen
We carefully administer medications, surgeries and therapies
We measure progress in numerical metrics of lab values, calculated scores and vital signs
We arrive early and stay late
We work day and night without a break
We always have too much on our plates
We deprive ourselves of sleep, fresh air and food
We know why we have irritable moods
Practicing medicine is an unhealthy, imbalanced lifestyle and we know it
We can only ever heal ourselves
I’m ready to show it
I am finally healing my broken heart
I found that I had to begin at the start
Childhood wounds tangle and bloom
Trauma begets trauma until we change our thoughts, words and actions
Breaking old patterns even as we hold traction
I am love itself, I am the source of what I sought
My cup overflows, it was not all for naught

Man’s Medicine

I am surrounded by man’s medicine

Doctors like me are compensated in proportion to how much we dominate and penetrate patients
This is man’s medicine
But it would be nothing
Without Earth Mama
We are born from her
We are made of her
Yet we often forget and neglect her
Bedazzled by sharp and shiny surgical tools
Our tongues twist around exotically named medications
All the while hungering for the ambrosial milk of our Earth Mama
To thrive we need the roots of her body, her verdant leaves
Yet we are blinded by starched white sleeves
Were it not for her willow bark
We would still be in the dark
She manifests her love
through starry nights and petals of foxglove
Let us remember the rainbow which birthed us
The marvelous miracle from which we sprung
May we hear the beautiful songs yet to be sung
I’m not knocking man’s medicine
I’m just saying
It would be nothing
Without Earth Mama’s healing touch

You Can Have It

Darling, though we’ve never met

You rolled the dice, you placed a bet
That you could win a lawsuit
Born of the heartbreaking news
That your baby died inside you
A horrific experience, true
But of your baby’s death, I had nothing to do
The coroner’s report reveals the truth
Your baby passed away at least a day before you ever walked my way
Darling, I didn’t even lay eyes upon you
I was being a team player, not a baby slayer
In going above and beyond to help another
I didn’t imagine I’d be sued by a mother
You said we dropped the ball
But we were never playing at all
If it is money you are looking for,
Honey you’re knocking on the wrong door
All those years I could have been earning
I spent in medical school learning
about medicine, not about law
Perhaps I wasn’t well trained after all
You want us to take the blame
for your unspeakable pain
Can you imagine what I have given up
just to help you, is it never enough?
For you, I went hungry, I went without sleep
Hard years away from my family, I didn’t see
I got stuck with needles, splashed with blood
Only for you to smear my name like it was mud
On the journey that led me to you,
I gave up love, I gave my life
I turned away from ease and took on strife
Of my own pregnancies, I sacrificed them all
My weeping uterus bled raw
Just to give you my best, I gave up the rest-
My youth, my babies and childbearing years, too many unnumbered tears
I stayed in an abusive relationship throughout medical school
Because the only way to escape my abuser would have been to drop out and forego my education
I stayed in hell for all the women held back from their full potential because of men
Though it was the hardest thing I ever did, and I still have nightmares about him
I don’t feel safe in my skin, but then again I never did
I wonder if I’d do it all again, just to reach out my hand, only to have you bite it
I fought hard to serve you, and serve you I did
Without a word of thanks from you, kid
Then again, we’ve never met
I’m named in your lawsuit, yet
What I’m trying to tell you
Is that my medical degree,
My heart, my mind
My hard work, and all my precious time-
You can have it
It was always yours anyway
Everything I do, dear patient, is for you
I give you my life- you can have my lawsuit too
In trying to hurt me, you only harm yourself
We are all connected in the One True Self
Limitlessness is bliss
Reach out and return the infinite kiss
Available to you at any time
You can have it if you understand this rhyme

Emergency Room

Emerging from the emergency room, gasping to find my breath, I weep.

I finished my last shift in that hell-hole, and I thought I would cry tears of joy, but instead I am crying tears of raw emotional release.
My patients called me an angel, but many of them were also angels to me- holding my spirit buoyantly with their sparkling eyes, a much-needed balance to my co-workers who seemed mostly dead inside.
Crushed inside the machine
Their eyes see only the screen
Their skin knows no fresh air or sunlight
As they toil day and night
In a crowded, chaotic space filled with alarms
Long ago, they replaced their charms
With rigid motions, mechanical minds
Without windows, they don’t notice the passage of time
When did they become so cold and bitter?
It must have been little by little
The fire in their hearts was starved of oxygen, their spirits wore away
I hope I keep my heartspirit intact, at the end of the day
Flashback to a line of gurneys in the ambulance bay
My attending grilling me, I didn’t know what to say
Broken bones and chronic pain
STAT CT to look for a bleed in the brain
Patients sustained on turkey sandwiches and diet ginger-ale
We wait on them, they wait for us, but we are all stuck in this jail
Trapped in a health care system which is systematically inhumane
No wonder so many of us don’t feel quite sane
My vision is blurred by tears
I’ve finished one more day in the middle of many hard years
Of sacrificing my life, enduring unfathomable strife
Just to help others survive another night
I want to get off this roller coaster, but I’m strapped in
Though I am sick to my stomach and deafened by the din
I return to my breath, breathe in new air
I have the rest of my life to move on towards
Tomorrow night, I’ll be back in the wards
With renewed gratitude, I leave this emergency beast
I walk past patients waiting to suckle the mechanical teat
Finally allowing room for my own emergency
My meltdown of tears isn’t enough to drown out the blaze
Which burnt me out long before today
I struggle to justify
Why I put myself in situations that make me cry

Pain

Pain and addiction.

I walk the line between giving too much and giving too little.

Rarely do I get it right.

Rarely do I feel right with myself when I prescribe opioids.

Knowing what lies on the other side of pain relief, knowing the train wreck waiting at the end of the line, knowing the lifelong prison sentence that opioid dependence brings- held hostage in our own skin, til death do us part.

Too many loved ones have died too young from overdosing.

How can I justify prescribing a substance that could suddenly and unapologetically kill someone I’ve never met, somebody’s beloved son or daughter, a curious teen who wanted to feel comfortable in their changing body, experimenting at a party, sampling the medicine cabinet

I want to feel comfortable too.

You complain of pain that you’ve had for years and expect me to fix in an instant.

You say there is a national opioid epidemic, but that you are not a part of the problem.

You say that tylenol and ibuprofen don’t work on you. You say that you need at least Percocet.

You say that other people have been prescribed more for lesser reasons.

You become bitterly enraged if I hesitate, and sickly saccharine if I yield to your request.

You shout that I wasted your time if you don’t get what you want. It kills my spirit to prescribe you opioids, because opioids are, in my humble opinion, the worst medicine- the most risk for the least benefit. With opioids, there is no healing, only the creation of an unnecessary problem without a solution.

It makes me want to leave medicine when I prescribe the medicine you beg for. I’m not practicing medicine for my health, so if I’m not ultimately benefitting your health, then what the hell am I here for.

Can’t you feel my pain? I’m so damn uncomfortable in this drug-dealer role.

If we reserved opioid use for more select scenarios, like only metastatic cancer or the immediate post-operative period, perhaps opioid dependence would be prevented for many who have yet to be born.

However, there are more drug profits to make and more blood to spill before change will come.

The whole scene makes me ill.

If I wanted to deal drugs, I wouldn’t have put myself through the brutality of medical school and residency. I could’ve just dropped out of high school and saved myself a lot of hassle. That might sound cold, but my pain ignites my fire. You didn’t ask about my pain.

I don’t want to be part of this system because I feel like I’m doing more harm than good.

I’m trying to do right in a world of wrong.

I swallow my words until they explode in a song.

Nobody hears my melody because I work all day long.

Sing sweet nightingale.

Room at the Table

To learn medicine, we spend years

Carefully cramming knowledge between our ears

Medicine is a hoarder’s paradise:

Constantly changing like the ocean, ever-expanding like the universe

In this shifting, growing, mass of information,

We hold dear each grain of sand and each countless star

Keeping them for future use

Welcoming new knowledge as it surfaces

There is always room for more at our table

Hero’s Journey

On this long journey

between cadaver dissections and treating infections

between hand disinfections and anesthetic injections

may we pause for reflection, reconnect with our intention

may we cultivate connection, and to our loved ones, display affection

to our own needs, may we pay attention

may we vote in elections

and to injustice, voice objection

may we have predilection for self-correction,

not be afraid to change direction

may we not beat ourselves up for inevitable rejection

may we forgive ourselves our own imperfection

medicine is a practice, and we will never be perfect

but it is enough for us to be on this hero’s journey

Victory is every step