Battle of Giants

There is no room for me here

With your giant egos clashing and smashing through my wall

Destroying my peace and crushing me

How can you receive, how can you listen, when you are so loud and proud?

Tooting your own horns with trumpeting fanfare

Whatever you are saying, nobody will care how much you know until they know how much you care

Hide and Seek

Where did I hide the drugs?

I looked high and low, where did they go- where did I hide the drugs?

I looked everywhere, even under my hair, where did I hide the drugs?

There they are- brighter than the North Star, that’s where I hid the drugs

Is it even fair to call them drugs, they’re really just plants

They grow naturally for the naked eye to see

Won’t you have some with me

Then we will hide the drugs

Until such a day that the whole world will say

These plants are not drugs

They’re natural as a hug

Come give me a hug and I’ll give you a hug

Mother Nature will give everyone a hug

Hugs are a natural kind of drug

A fortnight will pass and maybe another fortnight will pass

And then some more fortnights will pass

Time goes when nobody notices

Next time we find a moment to ourselves

We’ll wonder where we hid the drugs

Where did we hide the drugs?

We’ll look high and low and nobody will know where we hid the drugs

You’ve got to look within and ask yourself where you hid the drugs

You already have all the serotonin and dopamine you will ever need

Run after those endorphins, rein in your substance P

Sculpt your body and your brain as you want them to be

Quench your thirst with sweet neurotransmitter rain, abundant and free

Tension

Maybe I can sing to my tension to put it to sleep

Sweet crying child, mama has things to tend to

It doesn’t matter how much you know; what matters is how much you grow

I like to think that I allow time for transformation as I race to cram knowledge into my head. Perhaps giving myself permission to be less busy will be a milestone of true transformation.

Even the most awful moment is still just a moment if you let it go.

PTSD comes pounding on the door with complete disregard for personal space

‘I’m trying to put my baby to sleep’ I hiss at that deaf, indifferent faceless face

Everyone has something to teach us, and we have something to teach everyone

I thought that I was the only one who had learning to do, that I was unique in my innate deficiencies and that if I worked hard enough, I could trick others into believing I was normal. What a struggle.

Getting my MD was ego driven and ego destroying. At the end of the journey instead of wearing my hard-won crown I want to throw it to the ground because I know what really matters now.

I approach the veil even though my greatest fear is revealing the truth about myself.

You fire bullets at me, then ask me for more ammunition

In the hospital I admit the ghosts of clinic visits past

My forefathers poured gasoline onto the opioid epidemic, now I am asked to light a match and do the math

Prisoners on hospital holiday, homeless in need of shelter

I hunger for my own health and feel that it is just a sprout away

I keep my cat in the bag next to the elephant in my room

Money grows like a tree. I’m trying to plant seeds while my man tosses them in the breeze like Johnny Appleseed.

I wash off layers of alcohol-based sanitizer from my drunken hands.

Just because you feel superior to me does not mean that you are my superior.

I loathe you for calling people out on their bullshit because I don’t call you or anyone else out on theirs.

Words of truth stay trapped in my mouth and are transformed to tears which pour out of my eyes like a spout.

I’m beginning to notice that my avoidance of confrontation at all costs is no longer worth the price to my body.

My body is strong, carrying tension so far for so long

I’m ready to lighten my load

I stumble upon enlightenment on the rocky road

Served

I became a doctor because I was medically underserved and wanted to be the change I wished to see in the world.

How young and naive

It seemed like a good idea at the time

I didn’t know what I was getting into, yet I took the plunge and signed up for years of poverty, anxiety, depression, and exhaustion. My childhood was excellent training for medical school and residency.

Because I was born addicted to stress, the transition was fairly smooth. Medicine proved to be a mediocre distraction from myself.

Now in my 16th year of formal education after high-school, it has been a long, hard road but my bootstraps haven’t broken yet.

With open veins, I invited all patients in need to partake.

Bring me your poor, your tired, your sick, your underserved, I called.

It would have been more appropriate for me to say:

Bring me your disability scammers, your self-serving, your manipulative, your misserved by a system that rewards dependence on the system itself- those who take no responsibility for their lives while demanding a life-long free ride.

To go into the field of medicine with good intentions, then receive lawsuits from the very same people who I was trying to help out of kindness and generosity makes me want to walk away from it all without looking back- I’m not in this for my own health.

I look for breadcrumbs, smoke signals, signs of hope that there may be protection against abuse of physicians and taxpayers. We feel the crack of the whip with every eroded paycheck.

Seeing the dependence of my ‘underserved’ patients on the system, I realize that being truly medically underserved was the best thing that ever happened to my health. Having no other option but to heal myself required that I be resilient and self-sufficient. Though I feel the crush of the medical un-system I work within, I will continue a life of service as I become ever more empowered by self-awareness. Though I put myself last and subsist on the leftover scraps of my time, I am my most important patient.

Seen and Unseen

The world wants young women to remain untouched, yet everybody wants a bite of my apple.

Decades after the act, I calmly consider filing a lawsuit against a classmate who raped me in high school. I learned this from you, America. Though there were countless violations on my body by unnumbered people throughout my life, he might be the one person I could track down in my small hometown.

I’d rather talk it out, let him know how hurt and disappointed I felt, and ask him to kindly make a donation to my charitable organization, without involving lawyers.

I’ve heard it said that there comes a time in every relationship when you will have to forgive, and I do. Yet I still doubt that I will receive forgiveness from others.

‘How will he ever forgive you?’ asked the abortion clinic worker when I told her that I hadn’t informed my partner of my plan to terminate the pregnancy. She listed the procedure steps while I pretended that I hadn’t received two previous abortions, acted like I wasn’t a medical doctor. I always play dumb.

The weight on my chest is hard to sustain, crushed by the burden of the guilt I maintain. I endured excruciating pain to try to avoid womanly shame. Perhaps my effort was in vain.

‘Think 10,000 times before you write something down’ said the Guru to the crowd. I felt like she was talking to me, though I knew that I would keep writing, despite her sage advice.

I can speed read but I prefer to savor the words on my tongue like I’m a sommelier tasting a fine wine. I read to gather knowledge to orchestrate my epigenetics and retrain my brain:

I inherited from my Dad the ability to work hard yet remain helplessly poor, both the hero and the victim, riding the complain train in circles, never catching a break or a taking a breath.

My mom taught me to neglect and abuse myself, and let others do the same. Nauseating silent car rides were punctuated by explosive anger- the only emotion she ever expressed to me. She taught me that my survival was dependent on being what others wanted me to be, and I must always smile.

Throughout my life I have sacrificed myself, let the predator humans feed on my energy and body. I keep hoping that if I just give them enough they will be satisfied, yet the more I give the hungrier they get and the more they demand. I stay soft and sweet under their bitter bite, as I wear a maddening smile I can’t shake and continue with trauma-informed communication even as I am traumatized.

I hide my unhealthy habits on the dark side of the moon- sex, sugar, and workaholism. Yet I am building my medicine kit, healing myself. My tiger tongue remains trapped in the tiny cage of my teeth.

Even when the worst happens, how fortunate I am to have had abundant opportunities to prepare, to demonstrate resilient strength and flexibility, to remember that I am safe, loved, and cared for by forces both seen and unseen.

To My Residency

Your knowing hands

Will move me in new ways

Push, pull and shape me

Color me with glaze

I arrive to you soft and pliable

You will smooth out my flaws

Give me form that is undeniable

I willingly let you

Sculpt me as you desire

Create me as you see fit

Strengthen me with fire

I surrender to you anew every day

Take me in your knowing hands

I am your clay

Neuroscience Love

How I’d love to go walking

Through the orchard of your mind

To behold fertile neurons branching ever more intricately

In an arboretum lushly laden with sweet serotonin

My fingers search restlessly for the roots of your dopamine

My tongue drowns itself craving your acetylcholine

I long to climb your axons and shake ripe neurotransmitters

From the delicate tips of your dendritic branches

I ache to see your potential in action

To be blinded by the searing speed of your electric signal

As it sparks from node to node

To be swallowed by the violent beauty

Of vesicles fusing with your pre-synaptic membrane

How I wish to be one of your post-synaptic neurons

So that I may feel flooded by your molecules

In the electric throes of neuronal excitation

I hyperpolarize when you are near

Gripped by GABA, I am mesmerized

I’m living to see behind your eyes

Depolarize me anytime

Night Shifting

3AM:

Holding space

Just in case

You smash your face

at 3AM

I put out fires before I retire

Night song:

The day team has gone home

The bustle has simmered down

We few listen to the nightengale’s song

The dinging of hospital monitor alarms, all night long

Pink unicorn:

On inpatient pediatrics

I practice break room snack tactics

My pillaging rewards me

With a pink unicorn paper plate

Strung out:

By the time I realized that my survival skill of being high strung was making me strung out

I was half-way through medical school

Too late

Free bird:

Graduating from medical school

Leaving the shelter of my alma mater’s bosom

Flying free as a bird

Right into the glass door of residency

Anxiety:

I recognize that just like me, she is riddled with anxiety

I wonder if she has ever told anyone

I wonder if I ever will

Baby:

Baby born to today

Mom and baby are ok

How amazing. Happiness abounds.

The End:

Only at the end

Do we see clearly

What was important

Swept:

Swept up in inspiration

I catch these words

Swirling around me like fall leaves

I wonder if I will get swept away with them

Chocolate or vanilla?

The age-old question

In my advanced years, I have come to appreciate vanilla

But I’d rather ride a chocolate c— any day

What I learned in my many travels:

When you reach the beach at the end of the earth, purchase the overpriced coconut you long to drink

The Choice:

Between being a mother or being a doctor, I chose to be a doctor, though it cost me my sons and/or daughters.

My first pregnancy I called Cosmo

I sent him back out to the cosmos

My second pregnancy I called Autumn

I let her go at the first winter’s snow

Nobody knew that her skin would have been auburn

My third pregnancy I called Aurora

I still roar with pain at the loss.

I hope she will rise again.

The Moon:

Even the moon has boundaries

For a few days each month, it exists only for itself

Driving home at the end of a night shift, a faded twinkle in my tired eyes.

On the other side of the highway, commuters struggle to swim upstream

I cruise along drinking in the sunset- everybody else’s sunrise

Be Still

Be still my heart

I whisper to the bleeding bird beating itself against the bars of my ribcage

Try as it might, the only escape is through death

When at last this panicked creature the size of my fist may rest

Many a long night has my heart bludgeoned itself through dark hours, sputtering through panic

In the certainty that the journey as we know it will one day end, may my heart know peace now, between systole and diastole

Heart, you fill yourself up only to empty yourself out again

Working tirelessly in service to every cell in my body

I know I have neglected you, as I have neglected the rest of me

Every beat is another opportunity to do better

I humbly dedicate this moment to you