When Today Was Tomorrow

Today sign Those of you who are reasonably quick thinkers will already have figured out today’s topic. When today was tomorrow. That was when? Yes, of course! Yesterday. As time passes, I grow older and a beautiful spring is turning into a hot summer, I find myself contemplating about my yesterdays. That puts me in a pensive mood. My yesterdays have not only been filled with happiness and joy; there have also been very dark and unforgiving moments. And yet I know without a doubt that ALL my yesterdays as a complete whole have made me into the person I am today.

Time is an imp

… that sits on your shoulder, a little cheeky leprechaun that keeps on reminding you every so often that indeed, time flies, stops for no one and carpe diem. Early this year I turned the Time is an impcorner to the big four-oh. I dreaded that and yet it hasn’t really had that much impact on me. Age is just a number, after all. Oh, but especially for women that isn’t quite true, is it? For those women out there who have already come around that corner, you will know exactly what I am talking about when I say I hear my biologic clock ticking. I look at our children, beautiful and healthy and smartasses all around ;-), and the bigger part of me is grateful that at almost 7 and 8, they are finally getting more independant. Gone are the days of complete 24 hour physical dependancy on us as parents; basic human nature is beginning to be tended to by themselves – going to the toilet, brushing their teeth and hair, shoelaces, showers and sandwiches can all be mastered without us. YAY! A sense of freedom! And yet, where I should be absolutely ecstatic because it “frees” us of having to be available 24/7 – I can’t help but feel a little wistful as well. Our babies! It seems like only yesterday when we took away the last dummy (not without a fight), changed the last diaper and were, without a doubt, the biggest heroes for our children. Now spending time with your parents is gladly traded for hanging out with friends and the moments of hugging, kisses and cuddles become rarer and much more precious. I feel it myself and I can see it in my wife – the reluctance to let go of this time, to let them grow up into needing us less and less. And maybe this is the quintessence of being parents – the bittersweet of realizing that our children’s childhood, just as our’s was, is borrowed time and our job is to raise them right and keep them safe and sound until they can set their own sails – and help them on their own way.

So, I am 40, and I find myself thinking “what if”. In my wistful moments the thought of another baby is a wonderful one that I want to pursue. In my mind I have pictures of an angelic bundle wrapped in pink or blue, smelling like baby powder and innocence, safely tucked between my wife and I and our kids the proud big sister and brother. In moments where I am more lucid and realistic I shiver with horror at the thought of sleepless nights, breastfeeding, teething, colics, the noise and the stress of giving up your own needs completely for the coming three, four years easily. I can feel time and biology on my shoulders and yeah, I see that imp. He winks at me. And I know I will have to find a way to either mute the clock or make it happen 😉

Achy Breaky Back

40. Gone are the times of being able to eat what I wanted and just exercise an hour more if I felt my pants were getting a bit too tight around the waist. Chocolate and chips settle on my hips and thighs much faster and are much more difficult to lose again. Seriously, if you are 30 plus years old, do you remember a time when you woke up and nothing hurt? I mean nothing that was hurting or irritating or just not a hundred percent up to speed? Either it is really early onset dementia that I am suffering from or it has really been that long ago for me but folks, I am the first to admit this: I don’t remember. That doesn’t mean that I have aches and pains and little complaints all the time (although if you ask my wife, she might tell you a different story ;-)) – but dear Lord, sometimes I feel like 80 and not 40! I have done physical labor all my life since I was a kid, really, and I feel each hour of it in my back. Every bone that I have ever broken aches with the change of weather or the wrong shoes; it takes much longer to rebuild my fitness level  from “dying slug” to “acceptable” and aren’t you supposed to need LESS sleep as you get older?! Guess I haven’t crossed that bridge yet. Fell asleep in front of the TV at 9.30 p.m. yesterday. Urgh. 🙂

So, we all get older. SO what? We can adjust, and thats the key. If we believe and try to do things the same way at the same speed we used to when we were half our age, we set ourselves up for a huge disappointment of failure. Getting up at 6 a.m.  jumping out of bed (rather than rolling one vertebra at a time), eating a hearty breakfast of pancakes, bacon and eggs without any regard to weight gain or cholesterol levels or working (out) for hours without feeling our aching limbs just isn’t going to happen anymore! Personally, I find that the healthier and better I eat and live, the more power I still have left in this aging body 🙂 I believe in fresh fruit and veggies, in whole grains and powerfood, in red meat and dairy products and even sugar and cholocate, so long as it is all well balanced; my body functions well at 6 to 8 hours of sleep, plenty of fluids, good food, sun and physical exercise in any form – workouts, physical labor, sex 🙂 I believe intimacy with your partner is very important and you should never cease to make time for it or create the opportunity! Fast or slow, romantic or sexy, often and intense will make you a happier – and fitter – person ;-))). And who knows, it may even make you feel younger 🙂

The past and it’s exes

When we talk about yesterdays we also have to talk about THEM. The EXES. Most of us have them. Some we’d rather forget; some we remember kindly; and very few we may have even ended up being friends with. Lets be honest, though. More often than not, the EXES are a dangerous and uncomfortable subject. I will tell you to what conclusion I have come: exes are exes for a reason – and oftentimes for a multitude of reasons. They were a part of your past and that’s where they should stay. Does that mean that they can’t be friends or you can’t be friendly with them? Of course not! I am not preaching that you should strike them from existence in your book of life. That would be a ridiculous notion, and in my opinion a wrong one. And, by the way that holds true for the exes of your partner, as well.  Once upon a time those were people that you cared for. That – for whatever reason you may not be able to fathom anymore 😉  – you ended up being intimate with, sharing yourself with to a certain extent. Through this, they became an ingrained part of your history. True, with some exes it may feel to you like Hitler being in Germany’s unlucky history for good ….. but alas, that’s the way the world works. All of them were pebbles that made ripples in our soul’s sea — for better, for worse. Don’t dwell on the past, its a waste of time. Seriously. Remember the good times and try to forgive the bad, whether they cheated on you or lied to you or you simply fell apart. They just weren’t meant to be. You may share important memories with them; they may have been there when you encountered milestones in your life; you may even share children with them. But as much as they are an integral part of your intimate yesterday and have added to shaping you into who you are – they are not a part of your intimate today – even if effects from them are.

Which brings me to another important piece of advice: drop the jealousy. Our partners most likely haven’t entered into the relationship with us as virgins, and neither have we. Which one of us really actually stays with “their first” for life? Or their second, or third or or or 😉 Let me tell you: you have absolutely no reason to be jealous of an ex. Your partner chose you. He or she is with you. Chances are, he / she simply didn’t get what he/she needed from their ex and life happened. It happened for a reason and it made you two end up together. Don’t get stuck in thoughts of yesterday and what your partner may or may not have had with their ex. Thats of no importance and also completely irrelevant. With you, your partner reinvented him/herself. They have learned a new and, as I like to believe, better way to live with you by their side; you teach each other lessons, learn from one another and you bring with you all the experience of the past – making you BOTH more complete. Chances are you are both more empathic partners, you both know better what you do or do not want and you can bet your ass that you are both better lovers :-). You have learned all of this by more or less failure in the past. Be honest for a second and allow yourself to gloat, too, if you want – you KNOW that the level of intimacy you share with your partner is wonderfully new and more intense than anything you both knew before. Well, of course it is! You have learned, gathered experience and have gotten to know yourself better along the journey of your relationships so if anything, you should be grateful to your exes – or the exes of your partner – for adding to that well of knowledge. I love my wife both spiritually and physically with a depth and intensity and also a certainty that I have never possessed or known with anyone else and she tells me the same is true for her. By no means do I wish to say that I didn’t honestly care for my exes and I know so did my wife. The past teaches those who want to learn. We should be wise to pay attention to those lessons – and then focus all of our attention on the present and the future.

From childhood to old age

There is a country song called “Don’t blink”. It sums up life in a few blinks of an eye and tells you that before you know it, years have passed, you have grown up, you live life, your kids are grown, and eventually you die. Along the road of our lives we walk through deep, dark shadowy valleys and climb steep mountains; we know despair and elation; we know anger and forgiveness; and most of us believe in a higher being, a God, a transcendental something; we believe that everything happens for a reason. That is both a scary and a comforting thought and it relives us of the ultimate responsibility which we shouldn’t confuse with giving us a free ride in life. Karma is a bitch, and it will come find you 😉

Life is short. Live it. Be kind to others. Appreciate the little things. Give love, understanding and hold out a helping hand. Don’t close your eyes to someone in need. Make love, often and as loud as you want ;-). Enjoy the sun and the snow, take walks in the rain and play with your kids or your animals. Laugh, cry and be yourself. Be grateful for everything you have. Work hard. Forgive. Be humble. And every time you seem to be too lazy to get that butt off the couch ask yourself if that is REALLY how you want to spend your precious time. If it is, by all means, do it! Just do what makes you happy without hurting anyone in the process. And when you wake up tomorrow, actually SMILE when you feel that ache in your back because hey, it IS proof after all, that you made it this far! Be proud of who you are and what you will still become. Look around you with your eyes wide open and help make a change for the better. And for God’s sakes, please, carpe that fu**ing diem 🙂

 

 

 

 

You may or may not be Christian – I have always found the prayer of St. Francis to be my best, my ultimate guide when times got really tough. So, when I need to be reminded of how I want to live my life I speak the words in my mind:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen.

As always,

Deb

I am dying to find out how you feel about the passing of time, about exes and about carpe diem 🙂 Please let me know and leave a comment! Thanks!

 

Scrub Me Raw – A Day In The Life Of A Surgeon

 

Its all guts and glory? No. Its guts, and more guts. A few of us may remember Samuel Shem’s “House Of God”. Those who do? Re-read it. Those who don’t? Read it! It is one of the best books ever written about the reality of being a doctor and altough published in 1978 it is, with a few small moderations, in essence still as acutely true as it was then. When you read it (not “if”, when – I m trusting my readers to be intelligent people interested in a really good read!), you will come across quotes such as this: “It’s an incredible paradox that being a doctor is so degrading and yet is so valued by society”. Truer words……

Let’s not make this into a great literal story. Lets get this right, no frills, no sugarcoating. Let me take you on a factual ride on the 24+ hours of a typical day in a surgeon’s life!

5.30 a.m. Your alarm goes off. Its early yet but it is summer and so the temperatures are already in the low 70’ies and it is light outside. Thats good! Easier to motivate yourself to get up when its not pitch black like it would be in winter. As you get up, your feet hit the floor, you hit the shower your brain is already on that film roll of the upcoming 24+ hours. You have 45 minutes to shower, get dressed, drink your first two cups  of strong black coffee and pack everything you need to survive the coming day and night away from home – clothes, toiletry kit, food, snacks, drinks. Of course there is a cafeteria at the hospital where you work  – but you have no idea whether you will get to go there during opening hours so you want to be on the safe side rather than rely on the the vending machines and their very limited choices. Your brain is already working on overtime; you are still at home but your thoughts are with your patients, on the cases you have scheduled for today. Your family is still asleep. For now it is just you and the universe.

6.15 a.m. In your car on your way to the hospital, the roads are just starting to get busy. Listening to the morning news. Contemplating if you should drink coffee number 3 that sits in the travel mug beside you but – that will only make you need to pee. Not a good idea.

6.50 a.m. You park your car at what you hope is a safe spot; with the hospital entrance in plain view the feeling you have in one of elation – you get to save lives again today! – and one of dread – you are looking at 24+ hours of complete and limitless availability, likely no sleep, no food and loads of stress.

7.10 a.m. In your office. Your name on the door with the letters M.D. attached to it jumps out at you and for a second you feel like you are in the twilight zone. Is that really you? Can you really do everything expected of you today? As you shed your street clothes and put on scrubs and a white lab coat you go through a process of dissociation. The private “you” – the mom/dad, the spouse, the friend, the YOU with all your doubts and fears and insecurities is safely boxed, sealed and tucked away into some hidden corner of your mind. The professional “you” – the doctor, the surgeon, sure and confident and even a tad arrogant –  emerges. This is what is expected of you, after all. You are an attending surgeon. There is NO ROOM for doubt or hesitancy. With a straight spine, a strong gait and a winning attitude you start your day.

7.15 a.m. You step onto the ward and automatically you are envelopped in an air of hectic. The hallway smells antiseptic and faintly of puke or excrements, hard to tell. As you grab a cup of bad coffee you realize you need to pee. Well, tough luck. Later. You meet up with your residents and interns at the nurses’ station so they can tell you about the last night. You have only been gone from this place for 12 hours but a lot has happened. As you try to register and file away all the information thrown at you, automatically assigning residents to certain tasks for the day, an alarm goes off down the hall. Code blue. A patient in real distress. You push your half empty coffee cup at the next available intern and your feet hit the hallway running just as a dishevelled nurse appears in the doorway of said room screaming for your help. From that moment on everything is on autopilot. Everything fades away – the noise, the hectic, the chaos; the argument you had with your wife last night, the planning for an upcoming birthday party for one of your kids, the “To Do” lists in the back of your mind. Its as if everything falls out of focus but this.

7.19 a.m. The room looks like a war zone. 3 patients – two really scared and one not looking good at all. A femoral bypass revision surgery from the day before – which means that one of the arteries from the groin to the leg was replaced with an artificial one. Arteries are the vessels that pump blood from the heart into the body. If you have a blood pressure for example of 160 over 90 that means that there is enough pressure in your arteries to pump blood about 5 to 6 feet into the air from ground level. Thats a lot of pressure, folks. With patient X – lets call him Mr. Jones – the new bypass sutures ripped, the blood accumulating underneath the skin quickly tore the skin sutures and blood has squirted everywhere – the bed, the linen, the walls, the furniture, the floor, the nurse, even the ceiling (remember? 5 to 6 feet……). As a result, Mr. Jones has lost quite a bit of the 2 gallons of blood in his body in a very short amount of time and is coding – which means that he is unconscious with no measurable puls or blood pressure.

As you enter the room the energy shifts. Everyone – every single person – looks at you and to you. You have the answers, you have the solution, you are the saviour. Small wonder so many surgeons have a God complex! You have to make decisions and you have exactly 30 seconds for that. And suddenly, you are in the zone.

7.20 a.m. You throw away your lab coat now ruined, bark out orders for lab works, blood units and fluids to be administered, put on the gloves a nurse throws at you from across the room, give orders for medication, materials, to book an OR, to inform anaesthesia; you order an intern to your side and when he just stares at you blankly you just shout at him, bark, order to put his hands into the open wound and press and compress with his whole body weight while you start chest compressions. No point in trying to get the heart back to pump if it just pumps out blood at the groin, is there? Your “human intern plug” looks pale, slightly green and ready to pass out but you haven’t got the luxury to coddle or comfort him; you just tell him to man up and pull himself together or make room for someone who is up to the job. The intern looks at you across the bed, his eyes roll back and he faints. Blood squirts from the wound all over you – scrubs, arms, face. No time to wipe it. No time to think of protecting yourself while you have a life to safe. In a split second you make decisions, again. Heart beat is back so you climb on the patient and put your own hands into the gaping cavity and the groin, find the artery and compress with all you’ve got.

7.22 a.m. You should be on your way to the morning surgical conference. Instead you are sitting on your patient with you hands deep inside of him being rushed into the OR. You still need to pee – no time. You haven’t eaten and your blood sugar levels drop to a point where you feel nauseous yourself. Tough luck, for you don’t have the luxury of giving in to that.

7.32 a.m. In the OR. A nurse has taken over the compression and you scrub. Time to focus. The antiseptic runs in rivulets down your arms and it’s smell hits your nostrils. This, you know. This is home. This is where you belong. Your mask tight over your mouth and nose, your bladder and stomach ignored, your brain busy with solutions for Mr. Jones’ groin. As you step into the OR with your hands in the air and get dressed by the scrub nurse you are fully awake, hyper alert and totally focussed because you have to be. There is no room for failure or mistakes. Mistakes mean people die. This man on your table, Mr. Jones, you know him well. He is a father, a grandfather, a husband. You know his family. They are all relying on you to fix whatever is wrong. So nothing else matters, can matter now, but this.

7.47 a.m. Before the day has even officially begun, really. Just a flicker of a thought that your kids are just now getting ready for school, that your wife is making them breakfast or is under the shower, that you miss them. Then: “10 blade” holding out your hand, taking the knife and cutting. The show begins.

8.15 a.m. Your phone rings. One of the nurses answers and puts it on speaker. The resident who makes rounds on the ward with two PRESSING questions that can’t wait. You answer while your hands keep on working.

8.27 a.m. Phone. The resident again. He forgot your answer to question number 2.

8.39 a.m. Phone. Of course, the resident. You silently wish him a painful death. But you answer his questions, with all the patience you have left.

9.12 a.m. You have been at it for an hour and a half. Its touch-and-go. Your lower back is aching from standing at an ackward angle for too long; you STILL need to pee and abandon the thought as quickly as it came; serves you right for drinking 2 and a half cups of coffee! On you go.

9.47 a.m. Phone. You tell the nurse that if its the resident he can go fu** himself. Kindness and patience have flown out the window by now. But instead, it is the radiologist. He has an emergency – he perforated an artery while he was doing a radiological intervention. There is bleeding. Can you come take a look? Hmmmm…… let me think. NO?! Call someone else, I am busy.

9.59 a.m. Phone. Radiology. Everyone else is busy, too. What to do? You tell the nurse to call your best resident and send her and then call you with whats’ what.

10.28 a.m. Cold sweat trickles down your back. The XRay gear you wear is heavy and pulls on your limbs. You feel lightheaded. You stand up straight, crack your back, close your eyes for a milisecond, take a deep breath, then another, and continue. Your bladder wants to burst. Fu**ing hell.

10.43 a.m. Phone. Your resident. Patient Y – lets call her Mrs. Smith – from radilogy needs surgery; she will prep her to be the next in line.

11.12. a.m. Last stitches. Done. You step away from the table, pull off your coat and your mask and oh thank heavens the XRay apron. Here is what you look like to an outsider: there is a dark V of sweat covering your back and front. Splotches of blood are on your face, your scrub hat, your shoes and socks. Luckily, other people will clean up the mess. You walk to the locker room, slowly, as if there is lead in your feet. Everything hurts. You take off your bloody, sweaty clothes and finally PEE. And then just sit there, numb, for a minute or two, trying to process it all.

11.15 a.m. Locker room door opens. The head OR nurse tells you that Mrs. Smith is being put under right now. You have 10 minutes to clean up a bit, dress and eat. While you do that you call the secretary back, two residents and the admin.

11.28 a.m. You are scrubbed again and ready for round two. A text from your wife just came in that you should call her asap, something at school with one of your kids. Later. Now, focus. Mrs. Smith is waiting.

11.28. a.m. – 5.17 p.m. Back to back surgeries all day with just enough time in between to pee. You haven’t called your wife back, just texted : in surgery, will call when I can. She will understand. You hope.

5.32 p.m. You are back on the ward. Your resident waits for you to go on rounds with him. You do.

6.47 p.m. Rounds done, residents gone home except for the one on night shift. The nurses from the morning have long been replaced by those for the afternoon and will at 9 p.m. get relieved by the night shift. But you are still here. You are on call, after all. You fall down onto the uncomfortable chair in the kitchen on the ward after nuking the dinner you brought from home. On the table beside it stands an energy drink. You shouldn’t. Its bad for you. But well, screw it. You need to be awake. You yawn and close your eyes, tired and worn out, fatigue in every cell of your body. Finally, you text your wife back. Her answer is: never mind, sorted it already. Busy making dinner for the kids. Love you, have a good shift! And so it goes. Your life goes by, the blink of an eye, and a lot of it without you present. No time for regrets, though. Relatives of patients want to speak to you, the resident in the ER needs you to look at a patient and you haven’t dictated a single OR report of the day yet. So, you get up, throw away your half eaten dinner, chuck down your red bull and hope that even if it doesn’t give you wings a pair of feet that don’t hurt would be pretty awesome right now.

9.13 p.m. Night has fallen. You have been busy and have just taken your overnight bag to the on call room. Shower! Blissful!

9.25 p.m. Shower cut short, demented homeless guy in the ER with a possible leaking abdominal aneurysm – that is when your biggest artery, your aorta, gets weak and the walls slack so that it looks more like a balloon. Very dangerous and life-threatening.

9.31 p.m. The homeless guy doesn’t have an aneurysm – while you did the echo on him you found a) signs for gastroenteritis in his stomach and b) he threw up on you.

9.35 p.m. Under the shower again.

9.38 p.m. Shower again cut short. Patient with a gangrenous diabetic foot/ leg and sepsis in the ER. High fever, the shakes.

9.42 p.m. The foot is indeed a mess of puss and rotten flesh, so is the lower leg. Luckily whats left of it is covered in maggots which may just have saved the guy – maggots clean wounds! Still, he needs an emergency amputation.

10.01 p.m. Tried to eat an apple on the way into the OR; while you took a bite you saw a maggot crawling on the arm of your lab coat courtesy of Mr. Diabetic Foot. Gross. No apple then. Who needs food anyway?

10.36 p.m. While you are busy with the saw cutting off a man’s leg the phone rings. Its the ICU. A patient has died suddenly and unexpectedly. The relatives have been informed that they need to come to the hospital. Can I come talk to them? Sure. I will slip into the role of “preacher” as soon as I have finished being the “butcher”.

11.17 p.m. On the ICU. The Patient was 57 years old. She died post surgery from a sudden blot clot and pulmonary embolism. She looks peaceful, still in her ICU bed, with all the tubes and catheters removed. Her family is here, husband and two kids. They don’t know yet. As I walk out into the waiting room I know what I have to tell them as I have done on countless occasions during my professional life and I prepare myself for the onslaught of their emotions – anger, disbelief, grief. They see me, look at me with hope and just a hint of despair in their eyes. I take a breath, introduce myself, and say the words I need to say: I am sorry to tell you ….. despite our best efforts ….. sudden and unexpected….. nothing we could do. They hold it together until they see her. Then they fall apart, and I feel like coming apart at the seams, too. So I leave them be and walk away, the hospital halls quiet and semi-dark.

11.32 p.m. I do a last check-up on the wards where I am the attending surgeon before I retire for the night … nothing that needs my immediate attention and I could weep with gratitude for that.

11.47 p.m. In bed in the on-call room. Weary, I take a look at my cell phone and see two missed calls from my wife and eventually a text at a quarter to eleven telling me Good Night and that she goes to bed now. My eyes are gritty and tired; if I were home I would take out my contact lenses to give my eyes some rest; here I can’t of course – and glasses are out of the question; I hate to operate wearing glasses! Down the hallway I can hear the ever present beepings and sounds that characterize a clinic but it doesn’t disturb me, instead it has a rather meditative effect. In my scrubs, laying on the small cot, I am aware of every one of my 40 years, my aching back and shoulders, my stiff neck and my growling stomach. I am exhausted, mentally, physically and emotionally, and hungry. I let my eyes drift shut.

0.17 a.m. The phone rings loud, hard and unforgiving. I sit up with a start, fumble in the semi-darkness of the room for the light switch and the evil contraption Alexander Bell invented once upon a time. The ER. Obviously a guy has been brought in from a nursing home with a bladder tamponade – that is blood filling the bladder and not being able to flow out like urine because it is too thick – and the resident has been torturing the poor old man for half an hour trying to get a catheter past a huge prostate. I hear screaming and crying in the background and the nurse is a veteran whom I trust implicitly. There is no option to say “no” or “later” or “just let the resident keep on trying”. My ethic code forbids it and so does my conscience. I roll out of bed one aching limb at a time, pee (since you never know when you get the next chance!), wash my face, brush my teeth and slip on my sneakers and lab coat. Time to tackle the next round.

0.32 a.m. The ER is overflowing with sick people for all disciplines, mostly for internal and surgery. Since my hospital doesn’t have a urologic department, the surgeon on call covers those emergencies. The bay where the resident – lets call him Ali Baba – is tormenting Mr. Nursing Home reeks of UTI (urinary tract infection), shit (one look at the discarded diaper on the floor tells me why that is) and despair. My patient is thrashing almost wildly on the cot with his pants around his ankles and a crazy look on his wrinkled face with two nurses trying to hold him down while Ali Baba tries to push a hard plastic catheter the size of a pen through the opening in a small, shrunken penis into a urethra with the diameter of a hair. It’s almost 1 a.m. and I yell. I look at the scene and at the impersonated incompetence of my resident and take in the horrible degradation unfolding in front of me and I just lose it. I yell at the resident to stop RIGHT NOW whatever the fuck he is doing and at the nurses to let go of the patient. With angry, erratic movements I take off my lab coat, grab gloves from the wall dispenser and walk over to Mr. Nursing Home. I know from what the nurse told me he suffers from dementia but right now I need him to know he is ok, that I will take care of him, that he will be ok. So I ask him his name. I tell him that I am the doctor and I will make the pain go away but he needs to help me a little. I get a nurse to grab a blanket, cover his shivering body and take a hold of his frail hand with the too long dirty nails. He looks at me and I see a moment of lucid thought in his eyes. Jim. His name is Jim. Mr. Nursing Home is a human being, an old man in desperate need of help. He isn’t some rabid animal to be treated whichever way we want to. I look up and catch Ali Baba looking at me with disgust. Mistake. Then he opens his mouth to tell me with a heavy accent that the patient stinks and is revolting. Bigger mistake. And that he is SURE that even I won’t be able to get a catheter into this mess of a man. Biggest mistake. In the midst of chaos, I am calm. It is a character trait that has been helpful to me on so many occassions in my professional life. The crazier everything around me is, the calmer I get. So, calmly, I ask for a small silicone (really soft) catheter with a lead wire (a very thin but strong wire inside the catheter to help push is through smaller cavities), for pain medication to be administered through the vein and for a local anaesthetic gel I freely squirt all over the catheter as a lubricant. I tell Jim to trust me and try to relax. A nurse takes over holding his hand. I go to work gently and determined and within 10 minutes I have placed the cath, removed the blood in the bladder and have a rinsing system in place. Jim has fallen asleep during the procedure. I am glad. Outside of the bay I catch up with Ali Baba. I am telling him that I never want to see him treat a patient this way again, talk about a patient this way again or hurt a patient like this without any need to. I can see him wanting to sneer at me because after all, I am just a woman. I am a female surgeon in a world still dominated by men. I am used to this. And I have about 1000 come backs. I am also his attending surgeon so lucky for him, he thinks better of it and shuffles to his next head laceration or twisted ankle. The nurse coming out of the bay winks at me and says something in the sense of: whatever would we do without you Doc? Yeah. Well. Go on. You would go on and find another “me”. But I only think that. I am too tired for a philosophical conversation at this hour.

1.45 a.m. Back in the on call room. My scrubs still smell a bit like Jim but hell, I am past the point of caring. I just want to sleep. Shoes off, lights out.

2.17 a.m. Phone. Disoriented. Grumpy. A child with acute appendicits. Girl, 9 years old. I sigh. Pee. Shoes on, lab coat. ER.

2.33 a.m. The girl’s name is Larissa. She does have appendicitis. And two very frightened parents. She needs surgery and she needs it right now. She is brave, her parents just crazy with worry. I calm them, explain in detail what is going to happen, and that she is in very good hands. On the way up to the OR I wonder briefly if I have lied. The hands attached to this body are tired. The brain that needs to focus on this surgery is fuzzy and my eyes have trouble focussing. Then I think of my children and what if it was them? I splash cold water on my face. In the OR kitchen, while Larissa is being prepped, I raid the fridge, eat someone’s joghurt and left over cookies, drink two coffees and a cold coke. Showtime. I am awake, alert, here. I need to be. No other way.

3.45 a.m. Surgery went well, Larissa is being rolled to her room and I inform her grateful, relieved parents. They hug me. I am used to that, too. I smile at them and wish them a good night. Sleep. All I want is sleep!

4.44 a.m. I slept for almost 45 minutes when my phone rings, again. The ambulance brought in a young hooker who got sliced up by her pimp. Normally not something a resident can’t handle. But Ali Baba is running so far behind and patients are piling up that she would have to wait for three hours with her face cut in criss-crosses. I get up. Of course I do.

5.55 a.m. It has taken me the better part of an hour to suture the hooker’s face the way a plastic surgeon would and I am confident it will hardly scar. When I leave the ER one of the nurses asks me if I am headed back to bed. Nah, I say. No point anymore.

7.15 a.m. I have showered and seen all my patients from the night, have written up their orders for the day and have eaten a bowl of cereal; I am now meeting with the same residents on the same ward as almost 24 hours before. I have slept about an hour but I am awake and jittery. Fatigue will come later, I know. I do rounds, morning conference and look at a bunch of Xrays. Then I open my locker and prepare myself to switch personalities. As I put my labcoat on the coat hanger, pull on my shorts, shirt and sneakers and walk out of the hopsital I am me again. Just me. I feel great for everything I have accomplished; I also feel drained and a sense of freedom by leaving the clinic.

9.00 a.m. In my car, on my way home, with the windows rolled down for fresh air (otherwise I will fall asleep behind the wheel) and the radio on. I am looking forward to getting home!

9.45 a.m. Home. I park my park. Its Saturday morning. Our kids come running out of the house, excited and happy that I am home; they hug me and start talking a mile a minute about all the things that have happened yesterday, at school, with our animals and about everything they want to do with me / us on the weekend. The fact that I have hardly slept and worked for 26 hours isn’t new to them –  but its a foreign concept, of course. My wife smiles at me with a cup of coffee already in her hand and asks: Long night? I just grunt the affirmative and we hug for a good long minute – before the kids want in on the hug. Of course. Sigh. Over breakfast my thoughts are still partly at the clinic and I wonder how all my patients from the night are; but more than that I am happy to be home and I want to start my weekend with my family. Sleep? Who needs sleep? I can sleep when I am dead 😉 Or hopefully tonight when I drop dead like a lead weight around the kids’ bedtime.

 

I hope you have “enjoyed” the walkthrough of my day! I would love to hear from you so if you want to leave a comment it would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

Deb

 

 

 

 

A Tribute To My Wife

Opposites AttractOkay, here is the situation: imagine you and your partner go buy a closet at Ikea. Now, we all know that the handbooks Ikea includes with their furniture are pretty fool-proof; Ikea anyone should be able to have that closet standing in no time at all if they follow the instructions step by step, with the doors hanging straight, gently closing and all. Theoretically, thats certainly true. If my wife and I attempt to put something up together the calm Swedish scene more often than not turns out looking like an Afghan war zone. My wife and I are both Alphas. Luckily, that isn’t true for ALL aspects of our life – there are plenty of things in which I follow her lead and just as many in which she is happy to have me take the lead. That almost automatic role distribution fails drastically every time we attempt any kind of “project” – whether thats building furniture ouselves, putting something up, creating a new flower bed or the firepit in the yard and please, please, please don’t remind me of the 3 hours it took us to put up our Intex Ultraframe Pool …..;-)

Really, it’s funny. Right now, looking back on all of these situations from the safety of my couch with a hot cup of coffee and my wife working behind her laptopscreen a few feet from me, everything feels calm and harmonious and I can actually see the humor in these Alpha fights. When we are in it? Not so much 😉

What seems to be the problem then? Well, first of all we can both be terribly arrogant (;-)) in being totally and utterly convinced of the fact that we both know exactly how something works. Basically, my wife knows best. Funny, though, because so do I 😉 . We are both really handy and skilled with power pools and manual labor; we have both done quite a bit of it during our first 40 or so life years. So it stands to reason that we BOTH know HOW since we have BOTH done that BEFORE. And I will tell you that our approaches couldn’t be more polar opposites 🙂

The end results are always – and I mean always – great; they really are. The way to get there is always rocky – I mean, I will be honest with you – during the Intex stunt we were on the brink of divorce at least five times 😉 (If you wanna know how THAT went you can read up on it here!)

The question is: how important is it to be SIMILAR? You have two people end up in a relationship with each other that come from different backgrounds, have led different lives with different experiences – how likely and “good” is it to end up with someone who is like you in contrast to someone who really isn’t? See, my wife and I clash over Ikea because beside wanting to be the Alpha in those things, we really do have completely different approaches.

As we enter into the dating pool on the lookout for “the one” and later in life after divorces when we start anew in midlife we all come across that question; should I look for someone who “gets” me or should I look for my polar opposite? I bet that a lot of people would find it easy to answer that one because sure thing, you’d want to have someone at your side who “gets” you. Really? Hmmmmmm. Sorry, people, but I can’t agree with that one! I really think we have to be a bit more differentiated here. I believe from the very core of my being that if we want a relationship to be along-lasting, safe and steady one we should be looking for a significant other who shares the same “core values”. Those are your guiding principles – they dictate your behavior and action, let you know RIGHT from WRONG and guide you on your life’s journey.

I find it of utmost importance that my wife and I feel the same about the importance of family, our “role” as parents, how we care for our animals and children and for each other; we share a belief in science, in creating a happy and safe home for us and our children where, even though we all follow a certain set of “rules”, the individuality remains to live, grow and become who we are meant to be without being judged or hindered in our developments. We both believe in love and in each other. And there are many other examples of core values that we share. And yet, we are completely different people 😉 – and it is important to understand that one doesn’t “block” the other!

Why Polar Opposites Work

I believe that if you enter into a relationship with someone who isn’t very much like you, it can go either one of two ways: you can either really crash and burn really fast or you plow through all up’s and down’s together and actually create a chance to learn from each other and become more complete individuals!

  • You’ll learn new ideas that will strengthen what you already believe in or challenge you to think differently. With my wife’s approach to solving problems and life in general I get new perspectives. Sometimes I will end up agreeing with her; sometimes I won’t. But there’s nothing that strengthens your own opinions more (or makes you question them more) than having someone challenge them.

    Perhaps your partner will confront you with an idea you completely disagree with, which will then allow you to strengthen what you already believe in. Or perhaps your partner will introduce you to something new, and it will change your opinion.

    As long as there’s a curiosity to learn and a mutual respect for each other’s differences, exchanging new ideas will be the best part of your relationship. Example? We have a bunch of old pallets laying around. I came up with the idea to build a small pool deck so we could all jump into the pool more easily rather than having to climb up the ladder and wait in a row 😉 My wife initially thought it was a dumb idea and that it would look like a colossal piece of sh** in our yard :-). Hm. I asked her to think about it and I figured maybe she is right; last weekend, out of the blue, she started lugging pallets to the pool to which I then was first a bit opposed to and miffed (after all, MY idea had first been dissed!); we decided to give it a go and we ended up building the deck togther (no divorce ;-)) which is now in the process of being painted :-). the kids LOVE it and we both think it looks great ….! Moral of the story? See above 😉

  • You’ll sharpen your communication skills. Polar opposites tend to communicate differently, so it’s important you guys have top-notch communication skills and work on strengthening them throughout the course of your relationship. And I’m not just talking about making sure to always communicate how you feel, though that is extremely important. You also must be able to understand the ways your partner communicates how he or she feels. My wife and I still misunderstand each other on regular occassion after many years because yeah, she said / she heard in our case can be just as polar opposite as we are! So watch language and tone and get to know your partner and you’ll eventually get there :-). What you learn here about your own communication skills you can then transfer to any given relationship in your life! It will work wonders for you, I promise!
  • Calming down or motivating: If you and your partner are opposites, your personalities likely are, too. This means you’ll always have somebody to pump you up to be confident if you’re timid or shy, or to calm you down if you’re anxious or uptight. And your partner’s efforts to balance you out won’t take too much energy, either, because he or she will naturally be the yin to your yang.
  • Developing your skills in Sympathy and Empathy : two really important qualities in a person. Sympathetic and empathic people are more understanding, are kinder, and form better relationships with the people around them. The key to becoming sympathetic/empathic is having an ability to understand different perspectives – if you are with someone who is your polar opposite that is part of your everyday life!
  • More than just surface-level things in common:  Any two people can share a love for a certain movie or music artist, but it takes a real connection to develop something deeper. You and your partner might not have everything in common when it comes to music, hobbies, tastes – but who cares? You have incredible conversations, you are unbelievably sexually compatible, you have an immense curiosity in one another. This will be great in helping you not get bored with routine. Your partner will introduce you to new artists, movies and TV shows you never knew existed, to new foods, new travel destinations, new hobby ideas. The possibilities are endless! So, if you are out there and currently dating someone or are in a relationship with someone who doesn’t just go along with everything you suggest, you have different ideas, like different things – here is your chance to EXPAND YOUR MIND AND YOUR HORIZON! 🙂 Stop bitching about it 😉 This could end up to be the best thing that ever happened to you!

I need to remember that sentence for my wife’s and my next project 😉

So, no matter if you look at your romantic relationships or anything else in the world around you – let us all celebrate our differences and try to LEARN from one another instead of condemning what we don’t know because it is just outside our comfort zones!

I would LOVE to hear from you all – have you found your polar opposite? Are you dating and if yes, what do you look for in a potential partner? Do you agree or disagree with me? Very much looking forward to your comments!

As always

Deb

Healing And The Power Of Forgiveness

 

All of us at some point during any regular day feel like we have somehow been wronged. It may be as insignificant an act as someone “stealing” our parking space at the overcrowded mall parking lot or sneaking into the lane right in front of us; a new dent in the car without the perpetrator leaving a notice; a friend forgetting an

 

important date; a boss accusing us of a mistake someone else made. We feel as if someone is doing us wrong much more often than we actually look at our own actions with a chance of admitting that maybe we have been in the wrong, too. I think that is mostly due to two character flaws:

  • humankind tends to judge others rather than reflect themselves
  • a lot of us suffer from self-righteousness. A self-righteous person acts superior to his peers because he believes his moral standards are perfect. This “moral smugness” is condescending by nature and is usually found offensive by others.

How do we behave when we feel wronged? We get angry, irritated, we talk back, yell, fight back, threaten or we may feel hurt and crawl into our shells to lick our wounds. More often than not, all of these normal human reactions are a luxury that someone who has REALLY been wronged cannot afford because they are terrified of the consequences. Let us please make a distinction here. Today I would like for all of you reading this to take a look at your “feeling wronged” threshold – and realize at the same time how many people around are actually victim of a serious wrongdoing committed against them. In short, I would like for all of us to get off our high, self-righteous horses and find in us compassion and understanding for those who really suffer, find appreciation for those of us who have to find a way to live with being wronged, every day. And I am not talking about a dent in the car….

How To Learn To Forgive

If a crime is committed against you it is imperative that you learn to forgive. Whether you have been robbed or mugged, have become a victim of a sexual crime or a hate crime,  have been neglected or fired or bullied, even if you are a survivor of systematic long-term abuse. Forgiveness is key. There are many ways you may need to heal both physically and emotionally. But you will never be able to find closure or come to terms with what happened to you if you don’t learn to forgive. I am absolutely certain that those of you reading this who have only just recently been exposed to any of the above crimes or who are struggling in the aftermath of such heinous crimes may want to turn away from this post disgusted and affronted, feeling both misunderstood and unheard. I understand that you may feel like I should just shut up, as if I don’t understand what the hell I am talking about. Yet, I encourage you all to keep on reading and give me the benefit of the doubt. I know exactly what I am talking about. I have been there. And I also know that for many many years the whole concept of forgiving those who hurt me beyond anything I could ever have imagined was absolutely foreign to me. I was so consumed by hatred and anger and despair at times that really, there was not a lot of room for forgiveness in me.

What we fail to understand while we are consumed by these hurtful, negative emotions is that we actually hurt ourselves; we have been made victim by someone or something. And as such, we all have a choice: become a victim over and over again by staying caught in this negative mindfuck, locked in the dark corners of our souls – or we can say: no more. I want to be more. I AM more. Being a victim doesn’t define who I am, it is “simply” something that has happened to me.

As we go through the stages of surviving a crime committed against us we all struggle with forgiveness. We hate too much, fear too much, and ultimately, we feel too sorry for ourselves; and we even gain a certain secondary benefit from being “the victim” – attention, care, some of us even use the victim-state to manipulate others around is into doing what we want them to do. Don’t cringe. You know its true, and so do I.  And in a way what has happened has consumed us to such a level that its almost become all that we are; letting go of it is – scary. It is the devil we know. Who knows what’s on the other side of forgiveness?

Forgiveness means giving up the suffering of the past and being willing to forge ahead with far greater potential for inner freedom. However – when you accept forgiveness as part of who you are, you are in a way giving up all hope of having had a different past. Thats a tough one because it also means accepting that what happened to you is true, is real and unchangeable. Something has been taken from you – your sense of safety, innocence, your belief in the innate “good” of human nature. You will never feel completely safe again, maybe you will always look over your shoulder in a dark alley, maybe everyday things will always trigger hurtful memories and maybe you will, for the rest of your life, fear the nights and their dreams of reliving the past. But – that is the cards you have been dealt. That is YOUR life and it is within your own power and your own right to reclaim it and accept it for what it is. When you do you can start letting go of what hurt you in the first place. There are powerful health benefits that go hand-in-hand with the practice of forgiveness. In the physical domain, forgiveness is associated with lower heart rate and blood pressure and overall stress relief; it is associated with improving physical symptoms such as reducing fatigue and improving sleep quality. In the psychological domain, forgiveness has been shown to diminish the experience of stress and inner conflict while simultaneously restoring positive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. So the next time you ask yourself: why should I forgive them? – this is your answer. Don’t forgive them for THEIR benefit. Do it for your’s!

The Science of Forgiveness

Forgiveness doesn’t come easy and it won’t happen overnight. Its not a button you can just push. In fact, it is a science, a learnable skill. The problem for many of us is that sometimes we can choose to forgive another, but still in our heart of hearts, the anger or resentment lingers. It seems impossible and implausible to forgive – and yet we can learn how. Harvard researchers have described forgiveness as one of the eight positive emotions that keep us connected with our deepest selves and with others. These positive emotions are considered to be key ingredients that bind us together in our humanity and they include love, hope, joy, compassion, faith, awe, and gratitude. Whether you have a spiritual bent or not, scientific research supports the notion that developing stronger positive emotions supports us in leading healthier, happier, and more connected lives: When we forgive and develop these other positive emotions we become less encumbered by the scars of the past.

And still the question remains: how do we fight that beast? How do we learn to reach into the deepest crevices of our heart, soul and brain and turn all those painful, negative emotions around?

You must realize that your story is your’s, and your’s alone. It is for you to recount, to tell to yourself and to others over and over and over again just the way that you perceive it to be true. As much as forgiveness is key, so is breaking the silence. Sharing your experiences, your ordeal lightens the load and makes it bearable – and it helps others to see they are not alone! Think of it as a collective sea of minds. Each time you share your story it is poured into that sea and diluted again and again and again until finally, it’s “concentration” (speaking in a chemical sense) and the impact it has on you is so small it won’t hinder you to live a happy and good life. Believe this, please:  You will not heal unless you share your story. Silence empowers negativity and the perpetrator. Tell your story and while you tell it, make yourself the survivor – which you are – and ultimately the hero of your own story. What happened to you is unspeakable. But YOU survived it – and you are stronger for it.

There are many strategy models out there on “leaning forgiveness”. In essence, they all look a bit like this one:

  • Look at what has happened to you. Don’t make it less or more, darker or lighter, don’t evade any pain or anger those thoughts may cause. Don’t rearrange the details. Just look at it truthfully and honestly. Pay attention to the anger inside of you and realize how it is holding you back and keeping you hostage in your own day-to-day existence.
  • Review what has happened to you and realize the moment you started to reclaim your power in it. You may have been able to escape an abusive situation, you may have chosen to disengage from people who hurt you;  you may have called it quits on a toxic relationship; you may have rebuilt your life after it fell apart. You ARE indeed the survivor and hero in your own story. Look at the strengths that you developed as a result of this situation. Being hurt or compromised can be your invitation to a transformative new path and a more fulfilling life.
  • Be empathic and compassionate toward yourself. You blame yourself, I am sure, for not walking away sooner, for not telling anyone, for not fighting back, for not seeing the signs. Don’t. You are not to blame.
  • Adopt a symbolic end to a painful situation: this can be lighting a candle and being thankful that you have survived; it can be a moment of peace, a prayer, a celebration with friends or whatever comes to mind for you and feels right. You are here, inspite of everything. And life is  G O O D even if there are bad people in it. An end and the beginning of a new phase of life.

Remember that at any given point in this story you have the power to change how the book ends. If you cannot forgive the people who harmed you – and I understand that empathy for the abuser or perpetrator might be the hardest step to achieve, if ever –  then forgive the situation. It happened. It is a part of you. And you are stronger and better for it!

And finally, forgive yourself. You didn’t ask for this. And you are doing the best you can!

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on the post, I would love to hear how you have managed to forgive or if you are struggling with it! If you would like to share it would be really appreciated – you can leave a comment below!

Thank you for reading, as always

Deb

 

 

Is Grateful Dead?

gratitude

Those of you who actively followed the music scene in the 60’s and 70’s may think for a second that I am referring to the famous rock band 🙂 and although the content of this the grateful dead concert ticketpost may have a few things in common with some Grateful Dead songs (like Friend of the Devil ;-)) , no, I am not referring to them. Today I would like to take a bit of time to talk to you about being grateful. What it is, what it means, why we may find it difficult at times to be grateful, what we have in our lives to be grateful for and yes, the question I keep asking myself when I look at today’s society – is grateful dead?!

Being Grateful When Your Day Sucks

There are days that are just perfect. You wake up with the sun tickling your face with not a worry to cloud your mind, the breeze coming in through the open window is soft and warm, all of your plans go through; you have success at work, you feel connected with your partner, you like the way you look in the mirror. On days like these it is EASY to be grateful; careful – just because it SHOULD be easy doesn’t mean that we actually ARE consciously grateful for everything nice and good in our lives; but say we did stop to reflect then yes, on days like the one described, it isn’t hard to be filled with positivity and gratitude. How common are those days? How many days out of 365 in a year do you feel stressed or under pressure, under the weather, bored, sad, depressed or just plainly “not well”? Quite a few I imagine. Can you remember one single day that shaped up like this when you stopped dead in your tracks on that negativity road, took a few deep breaths, and tried to actively turn the day around? How often did “being grateful” for something or other cross your mind?

Being grateful doesn’t come naturally to the human race. We are a conceited, self-serving selfish bunch who for reasons that I simply cannot fathom take most everything for granted. We seem to believe that we have a natural born right to be “happy” – to be safe & sound with a roof over our heads, to have enough food to fill our bellies whenever we simply feel a little twinge of appetite (not even hunger), to have comfortable means of transportation (e.g. a car), to have the comforts of the modern age like smartphones and laptops and internet access.

Of course, reality is much more differentiated than that. The above describes your average Jane or Joe in the western, civilized world. When we expand our horizon and take that look around  in all neighborhoods of our cities (even the ones with the homeless shelters) and also take a look globally – this all becomes a completely different story altogether.

Did you know that in 2016 an estimated 795 million people of the 7.3 billion people in the world (one out of nine!) were chronically undernourished – meaning that they suffer from thirst and hunger EVERY SINGLE DAY? And did you know that in 2015 an estimated 100 million people were homeless worldwide with as many as 1.6 billion people lacking adequate housing – meaning that one out of seven people worlwide did NOT have that safe roof over their heads and did not have a place they could call “home”? Globally, 36.7 million [34.0–39.8 million] people were living with HIV at the end of 2015 and approximately 39.6% of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetimes (based on 2010-2012 data).

Shocked any? You should be. We all should be. Right now? I think most of us need to be putting on that hat of shame because we go through our lives naively and blissfully and selfishly unaware of the suffering around us and we can’t even find it in us to be GRATEFUL a minute a day for everything we have. Do you think that my take on society is too harsh? Take a look around you or just try to observe yourself on a regular day. How many times do you get annoyed? How many times do you bitch and moan when something doesn’t work out just the way you want it to? When you have to wait in line somewhere, when people bump into you on the overcrowded bus, when the food you ordered takes too long to be served or isn’t hot enough, when your neighbors infant child cries until late in the night the third night in a row?

What makes it SO difficult for us to be aware, to be grateful – or else, what makes it so incredibly easy to be so ungrateful and whiny? Well. I believe we start on that journey pretty much when we are born and we grow into it, being brought up to become exactly that. As I have pointed out in other posts, in today’s society it is a SIN to not put your precious offspring first. Children of the civilized world are pampered and coddled and from the time they can utter their pleasure or displeasure with something (even before they can actually SPEAK!) – they are given everything they want, and pronto. We learn from a very early age on to take everything for granted. That its not a question of: do I have shoes to wear? when it is below freezing out there – but a question of: which of the 15 pairs of boots or sneakers will I put on today to go with my outfit?

Be honest. How many of you ask your children daily what they want to eat? When I was a kid you ate what was put on the table and it wouldn’t have occured to us to dare say “I won’t eat that because I don’t like it”. In this day and age we adjust our dinner tables according to the wishes of the little princes and princesses.

Those are all just examples to try and understand the “nature of taught ingratefulness”…..

Why Being Grateful Has Become A Foreign Concept

I think we need to look at the idea of general ingratefulness in our society. I have already pointed out some everyday examples above – like not appreciating a car until we don’t have one or not appreciating food until we are really hungry. Being ungrateful really seems to be a quite common trait of humanity in a sense. Maybe we, as ” the People” of the western world are ungrateful for the many gifts of this earth because our behavior as a collective is designed to serve more immediate desires. To constantly have newer and trendier electronic devices, cheap but cool clothes and shoes – all at the expense of natural resources and cheap labor; or riding our cars, SUV’s and trucks ad infinitum (even to the next post box half a mile up the road!), polluting our atmosphere for the sake of our own convenience instead of diligently making efforts to use other less destructive means of transportation as a society for the longevity of the biosphere being suitable for life. Maybe when we think of what “being grateful” can be measured in, we need to look at what can actually be measured objectively in physical actions and processes. A collectives’ thoughts of living greener are of no consequence if they continue to enjoy the byproduct of destroying the planet without change for an example. Or in a relationship, having the thoughts in your head of appreciation for a loved one is quite different than sharing that in some way or another with them. Which means an additional complication – that even if we learn how to be grateful, we need to find ways to translate that subjective idea into an objective action for it to have any merrit at all.

Obviously, as I have laid out, we can be ungrateful as individuals but also as a collective whole. And it is past time that we did something about that. I believe that we all need to become more aware of everything that happens around us and take more notice both of the consequences of our actions and of the suffering going on all around us.

You may still find it difficult to think of things to be grateful for. Let me try to keep this simple for you. Let us look at a few things that I believe all of us can relate to!

  • A safe roof over your head, a comfortable cozy home where you can afford the amenities of water, gas/oil and electricity
  • Drinkable water – 780 million people lack access to safe drinking water. Feel grateful yet? Please do the next time you drink from the tap or buy a gallon of water for a few dollars
  • Enough food – you never have to go hungry and mostly you can even make free choices of what you want your diet to look like
  • The “small pleasures”: sunrises and sunsets. A walk in the woods or at the beach or lake. A swim in the pool, river, lake or the ocean. A warm spring day with all in bloom or a crisp fall day with the leaves coloring everything in vibrant red, yellow, and orange. The sun warming your skin. The breeze ruffling your hair. The smell of mowed grass. A campfire. A cold beer on a hot summer day. Childrens’ carefree laughter. Your pets’ unequivocal blind trust and love. Waking up and falling asleep beside the person you want to grow or have grown old with! Music, books, sports. And many many more…….
  • Internet access:  I still remember a time without Google when knowledge wasn’t anywhere near as easy to come by. Today you can pretty much learn everything about anything online and that is nothing short of amazing! You can develop new skills or learn about new habits to make your life easier and happier and ultimately more fulfilled.  And what a miracle to be able to connect with and get to know people from all around the world!
  • Friends & Family: People in your life who are there for you unconditionally. Love, support, kindness, fun, care.
  • Being healthy enough to see, listen, walk, write, hug, kiss, love, think and experience your world – every day.
  • The kindness of strangers – online support! Emails, comments and so on from people all over the world; someone who lets you skip ahead in the supermarket checkout line or holds the door open for you
  • Being alive – like all of us, I am sure that you have been in situations where an accident and being in the wrong place at the wrong time could have meant you would have ceased to exist. Be grateful because you are here. You have this moment. And the next. And the one after that. You breathe, your heart beats, you think, you love and you are loved. How absolutely amazing is that?
  • God or a Higher Spirit. Whether you are a religious person or an atheist, believe in an afterlife, in reincarnation, quantum physics or the relativity of space & time – I think most of us can agree on the fact that there is someone or something “higher” and more powerful than humankind, something that exists far beyond our intellectual grasp. Humankind exists. And someone or something is watching over us. We may not always see reason or why things happen as they do but –  I, for one, am grateful!

I hope that after you have read this post you will start to think a little more, reflect a little more and hopefully start being a little more grateful. I would love for you to take the time to think of 5 things that you are grateful for every morning while you get ready for your day. I promise you that it will make you feel more positive and it will have a great influence on your mood!

Last but not least I would LOVE to hear from you all – what you think about my take on matters, what YOU are grateful for in your lives and whether or not you agree with me! So please please please leave a comment below! 🙂

Thanks so much again for reading

As always

Deb

 

 

Alien Isolation In Virtual Reality

What is real sign

Where are you? Are you at work, at home, sitting behind your desk or on the sofa, maybe you are even in the bathroom. You may be stuck in public transport, on another endless train or bus ride home, trying to pass the time. I wonder, do you have a view where you are? If you don’t, just look around you. If you do, I am inviting you to look outside. Don’t just superficially scan, please; take a good, long, close look at everything you see. Nature. Animals. Cars. Bikes. People passing by. Busy city streets. Abandoned country roads. Sun, rain or storm. Advertising, construction sites, planes. Most everyone you see – are they moving fast? Are their smartphones or headsets visible, are they engaged in some sort of conversation or pasttime that is removed from the scene you see, busy and living somewhere inside their virtual realities? Now. Tell me. Everything you see has formed a certain picture in your mind of this being the NOW, the HERE. What you see is what IS, what you see is REAL. Is it? How can you be sure? Are you absolutely one hundred percent proofworthy certain that what you perceive as reality is actually REAL? Actually happening? Actually true?

Reality Windows

No. You honestly cannot be sure because a) you have no way to prove it and b) you are at a loss when it comes to the definition of reality. Today I would like to talk to you about empiric reality, virtual reality, the benefits and the dangers, alien isolation in virtual reality.

How Do You Know What Is Real?

Well, you don’t. At least not in a scientific sense. You could step outside and feel the rain to prove that it is real – but who is to say that the feeling of water on your skin – water that s e e m s to come out of the clouds somewhere in the sky – that thats REAL? How do you know that there isn’t some giant machines giving you the i l l u s i o n of clouds and rain?

You believe that what you see is real because you don’t know any different. And in order to verify that what you perceive as real actually IS real? You use your senses. The closest we as humans come to “knowing” that something is REAL is by PROVING we can see, hear, taste, smell or feel it.
Here is one of my favorite Harry Potter quotes to show how complex this really is:

Harry Potter: Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?
Professor Albus Dumbledore: Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?

 

If you start thinking about what may or may not be real and how you can really know for sure it may make your mind spin and it can potentially really scare you. If you don’t know anymore whats real – how will you know anything anymore? Don’t complicate matters, please. Everyday you give meanings and definitions to everything around you. Simply put, that is YOUR reality at this very moment. It may not be anyone else’s reality but yours – but it doesn’t have to be as long as the grids of your reality and the “communal reality” overlap to a point where one doesn’t exclude the other. Your reality is fluid, it changes as you learn different things daily, as you expand your awareness. Reality isn’t the IMAGE of a solid rock – it is what the solid rock is made of. What you PERCEIVE to be be real at this very moment outside of your window is as REAL as it will ever be; but as the day passes on, your UNDERSTANDING of what you see changes. Exchange the rock example for a piece of clay. You may MOLD it into different shapes – but the substance of the clay never changes.
Reality we experience is in direct relation to what we fathom things mean at any given time. There is reassurance in that statement, but also potential confusion and danger. Look at today’s world where REALITY and VIRTUAL REALITY overlap more and more, where one and the other even become synonymous at times. Does the above definition then mean that if you experience everything that happens in VR as real – that it actually IS real? No wonder the human mind can get confused!

The question of what is real and what isn’t is really as old as time. Many of you may have heard of the famous philosopher Immanuel Kant. He made a clear distinction between TWO forms of reality that I believe can be translated into today’s dinstinction between REALITY and VR REALITY. He claimed this:

There are two philosophical possibilities:

  1. I perceive Reality exactly as it is. If I believe this, then what I perceive is real. I perceive Reality as-it-is-in-itself. (REALITY)
  2. I perceive Reality in a way that is dependent on my cognitive apparatus – i.e. on my ability to think, to create concepts from my perceptions. If I believe this, then there is every reason to believe that what I perceive is totally other than Reality as-it-is-in-itself. (VIRTUAL REALITY)

He made a clear distinction between Noumena (things as they are) and Phenomena (things as we perceive them.).

We have all used the word “phenomenon” – haven’t we?! There you go 🙂 Not so difficult to understand, is it?

Virtual Reality – Blessing Or Curse?

What do I mean when I refer to Virtual Reality? I like to look at it as two separate definitions. The first one is the classical definition of VR:

The computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way by a person using special electronic equipment, such as a helmet with a screen inside or gloves fitted with sensors.Virtual Reality

We are all familiar with that definition and most of us have experienced it to some extent, be that in a 3D or 4D cinema, an IMAX, in a VR game hall or at home with our VR goggles on. The second definition of VR as I perceive it is more fluid:

Virtual Reality is everything we experience inside the world wide web or in other words: all online experiences are your Virtual Reality as opposed to your Physical Reality. An example? You meet a few friends for a drink at a local pub – physical reality. You chat with a group of Facebook friends online and have a beer standing beside your computer screen – virtual reality.

I personally believe that there are benefits and also a lot of potential danger involved in both definitions of VR.

Look around you. There is an enourmous financial investment into VR development happening from all the mayor global players and companies – Sony, Samsung, Mark Zuckerberg, Google – just to name a few of them. There is no doubt that those global players think that VR is worth investing in since it will have an important, set place and impact in all of our immediate futures – and may have even taken root already today. How many of you regularly engage in VR? Or in other words, how many of you ESCAPE to a VR reality on a regular basis?

Virtual reality is tremendously attractive. It gives all of us the opportunity to live and think outside our small world boxes. Say you are a regular middle-class American with a suburban home and a minivan and a once a year family vacation to Yosemite or Yellow Stone. You could never afford seeing Europe, the world. Now? You just put on your VR goggles and off you go. You can visit any city you like, walk around – virtually – the streets of London, Rome, Paris, Hong Kong and Sidney in an hour’s time. You can travel, look at art in the museums of the world, visit concerts, experience the thrill of dangerous sports, parachute or base jump or even fly into space. There is literally NO LIMIT. It can all happen, you can experience it all AS IF IT WERE REAL. And as time goes on, the VR contraptions will only get better, bigger, more realistic. Who wouldn’t want a taste of that? The question is: how much of a taste? How often would you want to escape your boring, stressful, regular life being the average Joe to slip into a completely different world that so far has been absolutely out of reach? It isn’t difficult to see how VR could become an addiction, is it? It isn’t difficult to see how one might get so “addicted” to escaping to those worlds, to basically living another life, that they would forfeit any and all time in their REAL lives. People have different personality structures; some of us would be more prone to fall into that trap than others. Again, it isn’t really rocket science to see how this can very quickly and effectively lead to alienation from your social net and eventually to isolation. Average Joe spends all of his free time sitting in his garage with his VR goggles on while life HAPPENS ALL AROUND WITHOUT HIM. And here is the pitfall, you guys. No matter how attractive VR might be – it IS NOT REAL. The emotions you may experience from it are real, and your cognitive aparatus (remember Kant?) makes you BELIEVE that what you see is real – but it isn’t. The problem is that it gives such a damn good “copy” of any real experience that it is hard to distinguish and it will become harder yet when virtual reality technology finds ways not just to cheat your sense of sight and hearing, but all other senses as well. When you are able to SMELL, FEEL AND TASTE virtual reality – and that WILL happen, people – then how the hell are you to know that it isn’t real?!

Welcome. You have now entered the MATRIX….

A realistic, somewhat scary outlook on the future is this: virtual reality will in the near future be totally realistic and compelling and we will spend most of our time in virtual environments. We will all become virtual humans. I will admit – escape into other worlds isn’t an unknown phenomenon to mankind. TV, internet, books, smartphones – we all do it. But as VR technology continues to blossom, the worlds that they generate will become increasingly realistic, creating a greater potential for overuse. This technological paradigm shift brings a level of immersion unlike any that has come before it. Virtual doomsday?

I have so far only talked about the negative sides of VR. But is there also any “good” that can potentially come of it? I believe so. If “used” and not overused, VR can open new worlds to each and everyone of us; we can understand it as an evolutionary step even. We all get to experience things that we would otherwise never have the chance to. It can help cure depression or anxiety disorders. It can even be used in the “treatment” of sexual predators or other criminals. At an extreme – wouldn’t you rather a pedophile or a rapist or a murderer engaged in their crimes VIRTUALLY than in reality? I know, people. I, too, cringe at that thought and yet I can’t help but see the use of it, too.

I would like to take the most objective look at VR that I possibly can. Like I mentioned, VR to me also means any form of engaging in your online world – social media. When all is said and done I have to say that I am still – and probably will always be – an advocate for REAL instead of VIRTUALLY REAL. I do believe that that is a very personal choice, though.

I don’t see why both worlds shouldn’t be combined to reach a well balanced level and I seriously think that they can. I love how we can connect with people all over the world, expand our horizons, gain knowledge through social media. I hate, however, how we all can get lost in it, literally lose time in it, and how we have started to misinterpret the term “friendship” for something that happens online with a “thumbs up”.

And yet. Condemning “VR” and social media is a tough one and I can’t do it. What I can do, though, is put out a warning.

Please, people, don’t forget whats real. Don’t forget the comfort of a real hug, of seeing people face to face; the joy in laughing with a group of friends rather than the bunch of you typing: ROF LMAO LOL in a common chat window. Don’t forget that while you spend time with your virtual friends you cannot spend time with your real-life ones.

Where are you now? Still at home, behind your desk, on that train? I am asking you to join me in a little  “exercise”. The next chance that you get – please step outside. No matter where you are – in a city, a suburb, the country – just step outside. Walk. Look. Try to be consciously aware of your surroundings and of reality. Breathe the air and taste it – in a city that may be gasoline and fumes or spices from restaurants you pass; in the country that may be freshly mowed grass or horses or even cow shit ;-). Touch a leaf, feel the sun or the rain on your skin, take off your shoes to walk on the grass or sand or even asphalt barefoot. Touch someone you care for. Feel the texture and warmth of their skin, their hair. Feel the safe comfort of being inside their embrace. Feel the heartbeat of an animal or another human being. That, my friends, is LIFE. That is REAL. And when you think about the hours you spend online or with VR I want you to ask yourself if you are really willing to give all of that up for a VIRTUAL REALITY where at the end of the day you may end up in complete isolation?

I would love to hear from you. I would love to find out how you balance your online/VR life with your real one and if you have followed my exercise – how did it make you feel? Looking forward to your answers!

Until then, thanks for reading, as always

Deb

 

 

 

Slave To The Children

ParentingAnyone of us who has children has lived through this (or a similar enough) scene: our children are sitting on the sofa (your favorite sofa …. the comfortable one….the one you used to be able to relax on….) completely engrossed in their tablets or busy with their consoles or texting on their cell phones. You are busy with other “mom/dad” stuff – cleaning, cooking, vacuuming etc. At some point you head for the kitchen to make a coffee and you address your kids:

” I am heading for the kitchen. Do you guys want anything?” First of all: you don’t get an answer. Thats hardly surprising. Your precious little ones either wear headphones with the volume turned up so high they don’t hear you; or they simply ignore you, so completely into what they are doing that listening to their parents is really the last thing on their minds. The second thing that may happen is that they DO hear you and glance at you quickly, just to directly focus their attention back on their electronic device. Feel disrespected yet? Wait for door number three: they DO hear you, they DO look at you and their answer is – annoyed. Annoyed, that you DARE disturb them. Annoyance might just be in their tone of (nooooo-oooohhhh, not now! Mom! ), or worse, they may even tell you to not disturb them. Yep, my fellow parents, thats pretty much the epitome of disrespect and yet we have all seen it happening in our homes, haven’t we? So, now what? Do you get upset? Do you just ignore them as they ignore you? Do you take away their electronic priviledges and read them the Revised Miranda? 😉 Are you a slave to the children – or not?

 

Say you ignore them for the time being. You make a coffee, come back – you actually have to shove their little butts so you have some small space to sit on the couch as well –  and just as you take your first sip of coffee and open the daily paper you hear an almost disembodied voice saying: “I’m hungry. I want a sandwich. And a coke”.

Look, people, this could be funny, actually, if it didn’t happen in real life but on your favorite comedy show. However, this is YOUR living room. Your kid doesn’t even glance at you when he or she orders his or her snack. And you know what? They actually EXPECT you to jump up, drop everything you were busy with, run into the kitchen and serve them. I would even go so far as to say that they’d actually be really surprised if not shocked if this scene played out any other way.

So.

What the hell has gone wrong here?

You are at a loss. I will admit, occassionally, I have been, too. I try to think back to the time I was a kid and if I ever – ever – ever dared to behave in such a way toward any elder, parents or grandparents or teacher or whatever. OMG. No. I wouldn’t. Why? Did I fear the punishment which in our day and age more often than not wasn’t just being send to our rooms? Did I really respect my parents more? Did they do a better job as parents, brought me up better? Phew. Thats a tough one to consider!

I think we are ok parents; we have taught our kids right from wrong and in any social setting they can be perfectly polite little angels. So what the hell is going on that makes them think that this behavior toward their parents is anywhere in the vicinity of acceptable? Why have we become our kids’ slaves??? Lets take a look!

Pecking Order Gone Wrong

Let me be clear on one thing from the get-go: the fact that things are the way they are and your kids think its ok to behave this way isn’t their fault. Its ours as parents, and ours alone. We set ourselves up to be their servants, their slaves. We live in a society where, at least in the civilized western world, the only “right” way to live is if your kids come first. If you dare say or act otherwise, you’re likely to get stoned by your peers. So yeah, it is true : we do everything for our children. We put them first. Before ourselves. Before our spouses. Before our relationships. Our days are devoted to making their lives easier and happier. And if our child has special needs or we are separated we feel even more that we should do things for them ‘after all the difficulties they have been through’. Guilt plays its part – and we let it.

And look – this is exactly how your children perceive you: as their servant. As the ones that will do anything for them, anytime, anywhere. I would like for you to be careful not to confuse this blind slavery with providing a loving and safe family home – for one has precious little to do with the other. Doing EVERYTHING for them doesn’t make you a good parent. If anything it makes you give them a pretty bad example that its perfectly okay to jump at someone else’s every beck and call. Just think for a second, will you? If you had a servant (and remember, thats how your kids perceive you!), would you expect your servant to suddenly start giving you instructions and telling you what to do? If they did, you would soon become annoyed and wonder what had got into them. You may challenge them or just ignore them until everything settles back down. Well that is what our children think when we start telling them what to do. There is a clear expectation that we will clear up, clean, cook, shop, play with them, hang with them, entertain them and give them lifts to wherever they want to go. All of a sudden – in their eyes – and without actual “motive”  we start giving them orders. They may think something along the lines of: what the f***?! They are bemused and slightly concerned that we do not seem to understand the pecking order. They may do a bit of clearing up to ‘keep the peace’ and then things settle down again –and we carry on doing what we have always done, being the same old slaves. Remember: this is the habits that we have allowed them to get into! So WE are the only ones who can actually change and put a stop to those habits. After all, part of our role as parents is to help our children become pleasant people to live with, and more responsible adults who can take care of themselves. Ask yourselves honestly that if you keep on letting the above happen – is this really what you are doing???

I really think that as parents of today’s society we need a wake-up call. We need to stop being scared of the peer pressure – just because every other parent in our circle of friends and acquaintances is OK with being their childrens’ slave doesn’t mean we need to follow suit. We need to beome resistant to our kids’ guilt-tripping – they are in essence selfish little humans. If something works in their favor, they will just keep on doing it. Of course they will, after all, they are only human! I would like for all of you parents out there to take a step back and think honestly about all the things that you do for your kids that they have long since been able to do for themselves…. whether thats because deep in our hearts we don’t want them to grow up so fast or because it makes us feel good to be needed, whether thats because we feel guilty or because we simply haven’t noticed the nasty habits: I don’t care what the reason is! And at the end of the day it doesn’t matter either. What matters is that you fall into the trap EVERY DAY. So. Honest look.

  • is your kid able to grab something to drink or a snack?
  • is your kid able to clean up after her/himself?
  • is your kid able to brush his / her teeth and clean their bodies under the shower or in the bath?
  • is your kid able to be given a responsible household chore like taking out the trash or cleaning up the dishes after dinner?
  • is your kid able to take on shared responsibility for the pets?
  • is your kid able to help with other household chores like folding the laundry or making the beds?

These are just some questions that I hope you have been able to answer honestly. Now – lets take a look at AGE APPROPRIATE CHORES as defined by the American Association for Pediatrics and Pediatric Psychology, shall we?

Chores for children ages 2 to 3

  • Put toys away
  • Fill pet’s food dish
  • Put clothes in hamper
  • Wipe up spills
  • Dust
  • Pile books and magazines

Chores for children ages 4 to 5

Any of the above chores, plus:

  • Make their bed
  • Empty wastebaskets
  • Bring in mail or newspaper
  • Clear table
  • Pull weeds, if you have a garden
  • Use hand-held vacuum to pick up crumbs
  • Water flowers
  • Unload utensils from dishwasher
  • Wash plastic dishes at sink
  • Fix bowl of cereal

Chores for children ages 6 to 7

Any of the above chores, plus:

  • Sort laundry
  • Sweep floors
  • Set and clear table
  • Help make and pack lunch
  • Weed and rake leaves
  • Keep bedroom tidy

Chores for children ages 8 to 9

Any of the above chores, plus:

  • Load dishwasher
  • Put away groceries
  • Vacuum
  • Help make dinner
  • Make own snacks
  • Wash table after meals
  • Put away own laundry
  • Sew buttons
  • Make own breakfast
  • Peel vegetables
  • Cook simple foods, such as toast
  • Mop floor
  • Take pet for a walk

Chores for children ages 10 and older.

Any of the above chores, plus:

  • Unload dishwasher
  • Fold laundry
  • Clean bathroom
  • Wash windows
  • Wash car
  • Cook simple meal with supervision
  • Iron clothes
  • Do laundry
  • Baby-sit younger siblings (with adult in the home)
  • Clean kitchen
  • Change their bed sheets

Funny, isn’t it, how your children are much more capable than you may have thought? It may also surprise you that giving your children chores isn’t a punishment and in no way does it mean that you don’t care for them properly. Quite the contrary. Giving your children chores is a great way to teach them responsibility, to make them an integral part of a small “society” – your family –  in which everyone has their role to play and feel important and worthy for doing so. Your children need to grow –  and preferably into something other than little tyrants ;-). Let them!

Assigning Chores – How To Do It Right

Remember – we all need to feel needed and to know that we’re making a contribution to “society”, even the kids. Chores are a great way of giving them that feeling. In theory, that sounds really great. But how do you get your children to participate? Here are a few things that you should be keeping in mind to make the process an easier one for everyone:

 

  • Kids aren’t trained monkeys or little soldiers; no one is perfect – and the more relaxed you are about how they do their chores (as long as you know they are not lazily sloppy) the better they will do them. And whatever you do – NEVER jump in and do it for them just because the result isn’t as perfect as you may like. You would hurt and undermine them – so don’t.
  • Don’t make your kid younger than he / she is: they are more capable than you think, see above.  Kids can do a lot of chores at an early stage. We hold back too long because we think they ought to be ready first. But that puts the cart before the horse. Ever heard of “learning by doing”? Well, thats a case of that right here!
  • Compliment them. Tell them you are proud of them. Let them know what they do is appreciated and that they are doing a great job! That way you link the chore to a positive emotion.
  • Be consistent. If  your kids aren’t expected to regularly follow through, they might start putting chores off in the hope that someone else will do them for them.

So. The bad news is that we are all in the process of raising little tyrants. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. Start making your children happier and more content by trusting them to shoulder their “weight”. You, as a family, will eventually be happier and more content for it! And if they really annoy you? 😉 Maybe you should try this approach:

 

I would love to hear how you approach this part of bringing your children up! Does the above sound familiar? Or are your kids completely different? Please share your experiences 🙂

Thanks for reading, as always

Deb

 

Going On A Guilt Trip

guilt tripTGIF, its finally weekend and a lot of us regularly go on weekend trips; you may think I am talking about a romantic getaway filled with candlelight dinners and star gazing; a city trip to some place where life hustles & bustles; a trip with your buddies to that cabin at the lake or in the mountains to spend some real men-cave time; the shopping spree with your girlfriends; or even the amusement park deal with your kids. In fact, I am talking about none of those.

What I want to talk to you about today is the GUILT TRIP that all of us go on every so often, courtesy of those around us that we care for; and about the guilt trips that we ourselves regularly send loved and liked ones on.

I know you are pulling a face, in- or outward, right now. You are convinced that you are neither prone to falling into the trap of being guilt-tripped nor WOULD YOU EVER try to guilt-trip anyone. Okay, everyone. NEWSFLASH. We are again entering the zone of the human psyche of which I, as of yet, presume everyone has one ;-). If you are human you have been guilt-tripped; if you are human, you guilt-trip others. Again, people – we ALL do it.

What is it then, a guilt trip – why do we do it, why are we susceptible to it, whats the use? Let’s take a look, shall we?

Guilt Vs. Feeling Guilty

In order to understand what a guilt trip is, I believe that it is absolutely necessary to first understand the difference between actual GUILT and FEELING GUILTY. They can ammount to the same, of course. Say you have done something you know is wrong or you have committed a crime – you may feel g u i l t y about having done that. However, most of the times when we are guilt-tripped or are guilt-tripping others it has NOTHING at all to do with actual guilt. We simply want the other party to FEEL guilty in order to achieve a certain goal. No crime has been committed. No wrong-doing against anyone.

However, in the minds of those who “make us feel guilty” that may be a completely different story! More often than not, if someone makes us feel guilty, they DO feel wronged. More often than not, though, that is also linked to having wanted something specific from you that you simply didn’t give them, in other words: a need they have hasn’t been satisfied and now they either need a scapegoat (blame) or they think if you feel guilty enough, you’ll change your mind and they get what they want after all. Look – I don’t care if that’s your spouse guilt-tripping you, your kid, your best friend or – very frequently – your own mother – I want you to realize that what they are doing is nothing short of EMOTIONAL BLACKMAIL – and that, my friends, is NOT okay.

I can tell that a LOT of you have examples coming to mind like hot little flashes of people in your close knit circle who have tried (and probably succeeded) to get something they want from you using guilt – and I can also tell that many of you will automatically jump to their defense or try to rationalize that maybe it may SEEM like they guilt-tripped you but IT REALLY WASN’T THAT BAD. I get why you would jump to their defense…. as would I! We CARE for those people. We like them, maybe even love them. Admitting to ourselves that those people would sink so low and potentially hurt us by guilt-tripping us into getting what they want isn’t a thought or feeling we’d like to entertain. And just as important – we all don’t very much like the feeling of being the naive sucker who got guilt-tripped. We like to believe we are smarter and more alert than that. Well, people – sorry. We really aren’t!

Let me stress this again – just because someone has successfully guilt-tripped us doesn’t mean that this is the work of a “bad person”, or that they don’t honestly care for us; remember what I said early on? We ALL guilt-trip. So, basically, we all sit in the same boat.

I will give you an example from my own life. I have a very, very good friend whom I have known for more than twenty years. I can honestly say that I love her and I know that she loves me, too. We have been through a lot together – individually and as friends, we have weathered all those storms. In the recent two years, roughly speaking, she has been having a hard time – a lot of changes in her personal life due to choices she made; among those things she has become a parent for the first time and that has put her and her relationship – as it does with so many of us – under an enourmous amount of stress. She has “changed” to a point where her behavior is hardly recognizable to anyone, even to herself. Luckily, she has been getting help and I applaud her for it. I can’t help but feel, though, that through all of this she has developed expectations of me that I simply cannot meet. She has just celebrated her birthday. A few days before her birthday she sent me a text inviting me to a picknick this saturday with just a few close friends. She didn’t word it as a “birthday celebration” nor was there any indication that this was meant as such; I have been having a hard time interpreting her messages and I have felt like I needed to tiptoe around her, careful not to do or say the “wrong” thing (which might be anything, really) – and seriously, her not mentioning that it was her birthday celebration could have simply meant that since she has been having a rough time with her family, she wants to avoid celebrating or even mentioning her birthday altogether.

Well, her invitation put me between a rock and a hard place. This weekend was one of our rare kid-free and work-free weekends and my wife and I usually try to keep these weekends as a sanctuary just for the two of us. We either have long-standing plans for those weekends or we just want to do whatever the hell we please with just the two of us without any social commitments. I love my wife. I am so grateful for those times when its just “US” and I will freely admit that I really n e e d those rare moments – a fact also well known to my friends. Needless to say – I texted back, thanking her for the invite, but declining. I told her the truth – that I was going to spend the weekend just with my wife, long planned, and really needed. What do you think happened? Come on, people, this post isn’t about guilt-trips for nothing 😉

She got back to me letting me know in no uncertain terms that IT WAS HER BIRTHDAY ON SATURDAY – as if I had a) forgotten for the first time in 20 years or b) as if that would warrant me changing my plans. So how did I react? I will be honest with you. My very first reaction, instinctive and heartfelt, was GUILT. I felt guilty. I love my friend. She had been there on my birthday this year even though we don’t live that close. I wondered if it makes me be a “bad” friend if I don’t accept. If I am letting her down, certainly with knowing that she has been having a hard time. If I needed to reciprocate. Guilt makes you feel bad, doesn’t it? It makes you feel negative and wrong and almost sick to your stomach. Now, I try to always reflect on my emotions and I try to look at whats behind them. I also have adopted the habit of trying to actually SEE it if someone tries to guilt-trip me. Well, I saw it. And my feelings of “guilt” changed to feelings of resentment and anger. How dare she try to guilt-trip me? How dare she try to USE my feelings for her into trying to get what she wants? Then I calmed down and I tried to look just at the facts.

I couldn’t blame her for wanting me there on her birthday. However, she put out the invite just a few days before simply EXPECTING me / us to drop all other plans, change all agendas to come to her. I believe her wish to have me there was true and honest; I also believe that her trying to guilt-trip me into coming sucked. So what did I do? We decided to go through with our weekend as planned. I sent her a text first thing in the morning, I sang a Happy Birthday Song. No reaction, although she was “online” quite a few times during the day. I tried to call her later, to no avail. Clearly, she is upset with me and now she is trying to make me feel even guiltier by not “accepting” my birthday wishes. I can almost hear her think: if Deb wanted to extent her wishes, she should have moved her ass and come here! So now what? Well, I have a choice here – as we all do in similar situations. We can either LET that person guilt-trip us – or we can just refuse to feel guilty. I haven’t committed a crime. I have nothing to feel guilty about. I love her, I have always been there for her and I always will be. I also have a life BESIDE her and just as her family is her first priority, my family is mine. I will not feel guilty, but I will also not blame her for trying to make me feel guilty. And here is an important lesson for all of us: those who try to guilt trip us more often than not cannot help themselves. Its not a premeditated action (although of course there are those cases as well) and it isn’t meant to hurt US. They do it because THEY ARE HURT. They feel lonely or down, they have some sort of emotional need they need to have satisfied. If anything, we should feel compassion.  Should we try to “make it up to them”? No! Because after all, there is nothing to “make up” for. Remember, I/you/we didn’t do anything”wrong”!

My advice? Approach the person who has tried to guilt-trip you and explain to them – preferably without blaming or finger-pointing – how their actions have made you feel. Tell them that you don’t like or love them any less and that you don’t hold it against them. But make sure they understand that they have made you feel bad because they did a very selfish thing. While you do that – be aware. Be aware of your own actions. Because the next time you try to guilt-trip someone? That next time is surely waiting just around the corner 😉

Guilt Explained

Guilt is emotional distress. It is supposed to have a clear role which is alerting us when something we did has done harm or could do harm to someone else – that can be on any level, really, emotionally, physically or any other way. If you have read one of my other posts explaining more in-depth the human psyche you will know that we as humans possess a whole range of “coping” mechanisms and thats true in this instance, too. We deny our feelings of guilt more often than not – and for a while, that may work. However, we shouldn’t underestimate the rather significant role “guilt” plays in our daily lives:

  • Guilt as a relationship-fail-safe: it helps you maintain “good relations” with others. How? It sets off alarm bells in your head until you take the socially acceptable “right” action – for example: its your Dad’s birthday, you must remember to call!
  • Guilt Time: you will be absolutely surprised to hear that we all spend an average amount of 5 hours per week feeling guilty … over little things, huge stuff – but it all adds up and can cause damage within us, it can be a source of negativity and it can control our actions.
  • Snooze Alarm: guilt, if not acted on and thus unresolved, is like a constant SNOOZE alarm going off. You are constantly reminded but is also messes with your focus, your attention and your positivity! Don’t let it! Face it, look at it and deal with it! Your work will suffer, as does school or life in general. Guilt is a strong emotion that, if in competition with other emotions, usually wins. It can make it really hard for you to function!
  • Guilt Depression: if you feel guilty over something you will most likely find it really difficult to enjoy life. Guilty feelings might make you choose to skip a party, not celebrate your birthday, or mope around during your vacation without being able to enjoy it. Again – don’t let it!
  • The Dobby Effect: a phenomenon named after the head-banging elf in the Harry Potter books—refers to a psychological tendency for people to employ self-punishment to ward off feelings of guilt.
  • Guilt Distance: guilt makes you avoid the person you have wronged; you only make matters worse by distancing yourself and not resolving the issue.
  • Guilt Trips: you feel guilty, but also resentful. We have learned by now that people who give guilt trips to others do so in order to control or manipulate their behavior, but they rarely consider the amount of resentment the guilt trip provokes in the other person. So while saying, “You never call me!” might get a person to call you in that moment, it will also make them less likely to want to call you in the future. This is why guilt trips are more harmful to relationships than most guilt-trippers realize.
  • Feeling guilty even when you are not: if you are prone to feeling guilty you may assume that you have harmed others even when in reality you haven’t. Its a misguided Pavlov effect: your trigger for feeling guilty is set off when it shouldn’t. As a result, you end up feeling guilty about impacting others adversely, when you actually haven’t. This is no minor issue; by over-interpreting people’s disapproval when it’s not there, you’re exposing yourself to constant and unnecessary stress and impacting your own quality of life.
  • Guilt Weight: Feelings of guilt don’t just make you feel heavier psychologically, you actually start feeling like any physical activity requires too much effort and thus you improve your chances to GAIN actual weight!

I hope that I have given a good, understandable explanation as to what guilt and guilt-tripping are. The quintessential message here is: realize guilt. See it, solve it, face it. Try not to let other people guilt-trip you and please, stop guilt-tripping others! If you want something, be HONEST about it and ask. Of course, that means “exposing” yourself and your feelings and makes you vulnerable – but in a circle of people you like, love and respect – that should not scare you?! Be aware of the fact that guilt-tripping causes damage all around. And if you have asked for something that the desired party simply cannot give to you – put on your big girl/big boy panties and deal with it! Remember: anything given freely is worth so much more than any stale effect of something you have blackmailed someone into or forced off someone.

I would absolutely love to hear your stories about guilt-trips, hear about your experiences and get your take on my analysis. Feel free to leave a comment below – I would really appreciate it! Thanks for reading, as always

Deb

 

 

The Ego And

The ego, the id, the superego… you? Me? The Id and the Superego?

We use the term “ego” almost every day. You talk about your own ego or someone else’s, you talk about someone being an egomaniac, being egotistical, egomaniacal, egocentric – the list just goes on and on. But where does the term even originate, what does it really mean and what does all that have to do with Sigmund Freud?

Sigismund Schlomo Freud, aka Sigmund Freud, is oftentimes called the “father of psychoanalysis” – a clinical method for treating psychopathology through dialogue between a patient and a psychoanalyst. He was an Austrian born Jewish Sigmund Freudneurologist and his theories and definitions of the human psyche and sexuality have been established as core beliefs and pillars of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. Freud’s lexicon has become embedded within the vocabulary of western society. Words he introduced through his theories are now used by everyday people – for example, did you know that those are from him – anal (personality), libido, denial, repression, cathartic, Freudian slip, and neurotic….. ?

One of the things that I have always found fascinating about him is that he believed the following:  when humans explain their own behaviour to themselves or others – this being a conscious mental activity and as such a conscious mental act – they rarely give a true account of their motivation. This is not because people are deliberately lying. However, we must face the shocking fact that human beings are great deceivers of others and they are even more adept at self-deception. We rationalize what we do, and by rationalizing our conduct we disguise the real reasons for why we behave a certain way.

 

 

Basically what that means is that there is more to us than meets the eye, more than just one plain surface. When we understand that we claim to do something for a specific reason – but in fact the reason is a completely different one hidden in our sub-/unconsciousness – we are already looking at 2 levels of the human personality. Freud’s life’s work was the attempt of penetrating this often subtle and elaborate camouflage that obscures the hidden structure and processes of “us”, of the human mind/psyche.

The Human Mind Is An Iceberg

… if that is really so it can leave you wondering if the people we encounter are simply Titanics and depending on where their lives and minds collide with our iceberg – the result is either glorious or desasterous.

But why that analogy? An iceberg? It serves the purpose of making us understand the human psyche as a three-level structure. Imagine what an iceberg looks like. It has a tip, a body above water, and a huge body under water. We should understand the tip as our conscious mind which consists of those thoughts that are the focus of our attention NOW.

The above-water body of the iceberg is to be seen synonymously as the preconscious mind – which is all the information that can be retrieved from memory. And then there is the under-water body – the most significant region for the iceberg and for the human psyche, the UNCONSCIOUS. The analogy of the iceberg is SO perfect because the part of ourselves that is the most important in our decision making and psychological evaluations of the mind is the part that cannot be seen, cannot be grasped, cannot be touched, is more or less hidden from view.

The unconscious mind can be seen as a sort sorage facility for primitive wishes, desires and impulses. For example, if a feeling or desire is too frightening, too painful, too scary – it is “simply” locked away in the unconscious mind. In psychoanalysis, this process is called repression. In reality, it can be the dividing line between for example the impulse to hurt someone – and actually doing it. We repress the desire and even though it is still lurking in the corners of our subconsciousness, we don’t (need to) act on it. Think of how important that ability is! And how important it is to understand that it is those repressed desires that may be the reason for someone actually crossing those lines and becoming a murderer or torturerer or rapist and so on. If we want to understand how all of that really works we have to take a look at what the PSYCHE really is.

Finally, we can talk about the EGO! YAY! 🙂 But not just that. Freud developed a structural model of the mind that consists of 3 entities – the ID (Instincts & desires), the EGO (reality) and the SUPEREGO (Morality).

The ID

Our deepest desires. Our best kept secret wishes. Our primal instincts. The ID operates under water (remember the iceberg analogy), at a completely unconscious level and it is reliant on the pleasure principle – in other words, it gains gratification from satisfying our basic instincts. If we believe the theories of Freud then we all are driven by two opposing biological instincts: Eros (the life instinct) and Thanatos (the death instinct). Eros helps us survive. It is kind of like a supervisor for life-sustaining activities – breathing, eating and sex. Eros creates an “energy” which we know better as LIBIDO. Thanatos, the opposing desire, is the set of destructive forces that is present in all human beings.  When this energy of Thanatos is directed outward onto others, it is expressed as aggression and violence. Freud believed that IN MOST CASES Eros is stronger than Thanatos, thus enabling people to survive rather than self-destruct.

The Ego

We. Our sense of self. Or not? In truth, the Ego develops from the ID during infancy. The Ego’s goal is to satisfy the demands of the ID in a safe and socially acceptable way. In other words – we are in essence not the EGO but the ID. The EGO is simply the means to an end and while the ID and it’s desires remain unseen, the EGO lives and thrives in REALITY. It operates in both the conscious and unconscious mind – getting it’s “orders” from the unconscious mind and actually creating a reality from them in the conscious mind.

The Superego

The internal “parent”, the court of justice, the morality instance. The Superego develops during early childhood and is responsible for ensuring moral standards are followed. The Superego operates on the morality principle and motivates us to behave in a socially responsible and acceptable manner.

Friends Or Enemies? Peaceful Cooperation or War Game?

Now that we have learned that our minds are really split into three parts – the ID, the Ego and the Superego – we should rightfully ask ourselves how those three seperate entities work together as a team. Frankly? More often than not they SUCK. The basic dilemma of all human existence is that each element of the psychic apparatus makes demands upon us that are incompatible with the other two. Inner conflict is inevitable.

What does that mean? Let me give you an example. An 8 year old child – lets call him Joe – who has already developed a sense of whats wrong and whats right isn’t allowed to have candy from his parents. After school, Joe ends up in a candy store with his friends. He doesn’t have money to buy candy and he knows he wouldn’t be allowed to eat them anyway. What happens? Primal desire. He looks at the lollies and the gums and the chocolate treats and literally feels his mouth water. Joe wants candy, desperately, now. Thats his ID talking. He reaches out to grab some candy with the intent of stealing it and thats the moment where the Superego makes itself known. The Superego makes Joe feel guilty because stealing candy and eating it even though your parents said no is a morality no-go! And then?! CONFLICT! RED ALARM BELLS! The Ego must act as a referee and mediate this conflict. How does it do that? With a series of defense mechanisms to prevent it from becoming overwhelmed by anxiety:

  • Repression: the EGO represses the desire for candy and bans all thoughts of eating candy to the unconscious mind
  • Denial: the EGO blocks things that happen in the outside world from the awareness – if I don’t know they exist then they don’t exist. In our example: There is no candy store, there is no candy, I can’t have it anyway because I have no money
  • Projection: the EGO Attributes it’s own unacceptable thoughts, feelings and motives to another person – Joe doesn’t want candy. Bill (his friend) does
  • Displacement: the EGO satisfies an impulse with a substitute object – Joe wants candy, can’t have it, eats an apple instead he finds in his backpack
  • Regression: a movement back in psychological time to a time before stress – the candy store episode stresses Joe; as a reaction he begins to suck his thumb or poop his pants
  • Sublimation: the EGO satisfies an unacceptable impulse with a substitute in a socially acceptable way – not being allowed to have candy makes Joe angry. His Aggression needs an outlet. He can hardly hit the store owner; but he can engage his friends in a rough game of soccer and rid himself of his aggression like that

What does all of this mean for our daily lives? If we learn to understand how our minds work, where our impulses come from and what methods we automatically apply to cope, we will be able to understand our peers better and ourselves and thus avoid a lot of conflict. If we are honest we will have to admit that we are all familiar with the mechanisms listed above. Those are actually GOOD mechanisms because they manage to let us build a bridge and mediate between the ID and the SUPEREGO. The real trouble starts when those mechanisms fail. How often have you heard in a movie or read in a book that someone says to the villain: you have no conscience! Meaning nothing more than: your superego doesn’t work. Or maybe you are a man and you have been accused one too many times by your girlfriend or wife that you “think with your dick”. That would be your ID making a strong appearance 😉

Is it really accurate then if we feel someone is really full of themselves to tell them they have a big EGO? Or would it be more fitting to say: wow, today your ID is acting up! Or hey, dude, get your superego in check, will ya? 😉

I would love to hear from you and whether you have been in situations where you have actually been aware of and felt the inner conflict between the ID and the SUPEREGO  – how did you solve it? What does your EGO do to mediate? Let me know! Can’t wait for your comments!

Deb

 

 

Truth Or Like?

truth or dare spin bottleWe all know the popular game of “Truth or Dare”; at some point or other in our lives, we have played it. The bottle spins, it ends up pointing at you, you are asked if you want to answer a question, ANY question your peers want to ask, honestly (truth) or be given a daunting task instead (dare) like kissing someone in the circle of friends you are playing with or taking off your pants to show your naked butt. Ok. So we have all played this game – then it should be rather easy to answer the question how many times, statistically speaking, people choose “truth” and how many times they choose “dare”. It is amazing to see to what length people go accepting a dare just so that they can avoid being asked a question they would have to answer truthfully.

Why is that? Do people have a basic problem with telling the truth? Do we all have skeletons in the closet we don’t want anyone finding out about? Or do we secretly feel ashamed and insecure about ourselves and are scared that the others will JUDGE us?Being judged

I have recently published a post about the fact that you get judged by what you do for a living and in my case, that is being a doctor – as well as the truth behind that: The Truth About Being A Doctor . I have gotten a lot of great and interesting comments on it, hence I decided to take a closer look at why it is that we tend to judge others.

Truth or like – what’s up with the title? In a world where we engage with others much more through social media than we do in real life, I believe that the fear of judgement can be found in the “like” or “not like” button. It is pretty much a spin off from the “old” truth or dare game – with the difference that we feed others our own “truths” before they can actually get around to asking; we tend to post so much about how great our lives are, how much fun we have with our friends, how perfect our children are that our group of Peers doesn’t dare anymore to question those “truths” or ask us HOW WE REALLY ARE. Social media reality becomes reality. Maybe – just maybe – a huge motivation behind why we do this is that we DON’T WANT TO BE JUDGED – so we try to take as much influence over the “judgeable content” of our lives as we possibly can by posting, blogging, instagramming – you name it, we do it.

Judgment road sign

The question we would have to ask ourselves at this point is: why are we so sensitive to the judgement of others and do we do the same? Yep, folks. I am almost ashamed to admit the truth here: we all judge others. And we do so daily. You do it. I do it.

Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged

Who of you know your Bible? 😉 In Matthew 7:1 it says: Do not judge, or you will be judged. For with the same judgment you pronounce, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Even if you are not a very religious person, this should speak to you – and I almost want to say: truer words were never written. Be aware that every time you judge someone, someone else is judging you. That doesn’t sound like a philantropic society, does it? Nah. But its nevertheless reality. We judge as we are being judged. Why? Our judgement on others shows our own weaknesses, soft-spots, and insecurities. Most judgments we make about people are based on lack of information. We make assumptions and judgments based on what we see, not on facts.

Judging others, as harsh as that may sound, makes us feel better about ourselves. You don’t like that thought? Let me give you an example. Say you are a parent and you have taken your children to the mall on a busy saturday (already quite a challenge, let me assure you). For a change, your kids don’t behave like little terrorist neanderthalers but are actually on their very best behaviour (admittedly, that might have to do with the promised trip to the toy store but hey, desperate times call for desperate measures ;-)).  As you sit down at a Food Court to grab a bite to eat you spot another family with two kids about the age of your’s – and their kids are throwing tantrums, try to kill each other, roll on the floor and spill their food and drinks literally everywhere. In a situation like this ALL OF US have had the more or less conscious thought: I AM A GREAT MOM / DAD; WE ARE DOING A GREAT JOB AS PARENTS – BETTER THAN THEY ARE. You smile to yourself, at your spouse, at your kids and you FEEL GOOD. Congratulations. You have just shamelessly judged others by a mere appearance and its made you feel better about yourself! Why do we judge by appearance? Because society is teaching us that every single day, everywhere, real life, tv, social media – they tell us what is “acceptable” and “thumbs up” – and what isn’t. And in it’s endless repitition our minds are programmed into believing just that. We have pictures in our heads of what things and people are “supposed” to be like, look like, act like. We then freely and automatically make assumptions about others. We see someone who is dangerously overweight and has stains on his / her old unfashioned clothes and we think: unemployed, food stamps, no discipline. We see a slim, beautiful woman dressed in well tailored suit on high heels and think: success, exercise, health. It never once crosses our minds that all we see is an IMAGE and whats behind it may be a completely different story. And yet, we judge. Because its easier to judge by standards fed to us than thinking ourselves and bothering to find out the truth behind a facade. In short, we judge because we are lazy and ruled by the media.

Place the example above at a company picknick. You sit at a table with your colleagues and watch another colleague struggle with her kids. Or you see someone in clothes much too tight, or with their hair not done well or in an argument with their spouse. What happens? Take a guess. And no, the answer isn’t pretty.

We all feel insecure about something or another. We discuss people to feel better about ourselves. In a setting like this, we fall back into our teenage years and GOSSIP. Freely, unashamed. When you talk about someone else, most people will willingly join in the conversation to add their two cents. You BOND with each other over judging a third party thereby minimizing the risk of your own insecurities coming to light and being judged. Yes, my fellow humans. We are really THAT shallow. We are really that “guilty” of judgement .

Oftentimes when we judge, we know nothing about those people, we have no insight into why they dress, act, or talk the way they do, why they just got into a fight. All we know is that we see something about them that we consider being ‘wrong’, ‘different’ or ‘inappropriate’ – and in walks judgement. And then what? Well. Luckily we are not just unreflecting ogers who thrive on judging other people; we also possess a varying degree of empathy and conscience. Sometimes when we judge we start feeling bad for those we judge or about ourselves – and stop. Sometimes those we are judging find out and get hurt. What judging does – always and with no exception – is that it begets negativity in your heart and soul. At the end of the day, judgement – whether you are on the giving or receiving end – hurts someone, causes negative emotions and can potentially do a great deal of harm.

You may wonder: if judging others is such an integral part of society then HOW DO WE STOP?

I believe the answer isn’t that difficult. Start reflecting on yourself and be careful that you are authentic in what you let others see and know about yourself. If you feel confident about yourself – and not just all the “good stuff” but about all of your misgivings, your mistakes, your failures, your not-so-perfect-life, your less-than-perfect-children, your occassionally rocky relationship – you give people less room and less possibility to judge you. Start to ridden yourself of the need for the social approval of the masses. Ask yourself: do you REALLY care if your old high school friends see your facebook account and are IMPRESSED with your life? And what would be so earth shattering if they knew that yes, you love your wife and yes, you love your kids and yes, you have a great house, car etc – but yes, you fight about who takes out the trash and who does the laundry and yes, life gets in the way of your libido and yes, your favorite jeans are too tight and you have been too lazy or tired to get your ass up to exercise 😉

Get real. Be real. You only have this one life. Isn’t it exhausting to live in that land of make-believe? Wouldn’t you rather that people LIKE you for who you are, not who you CLAIM to be? There is no easy way to say this: People WILL judge. Those who do? Let them. It just means that they have nothing better else to do with their petty lives and small minds than finding the time and energy to judge someone else; and chances are – the ones that judge most are the ones who have the most “to hide”!

 

 

 

 

 

Watch yourself, please. And when you realize that you are judging – stop. Just stop. Stop “caring” if your neighbor’s yard is overgrown (and categorize him/her as lazy), stop caring about your colleague’s overweight (unless you have a real health concern); stop judging parents with screaming children or people with old clothes, stop looking down on people just so that you can feel better about yourself. For at the end of the day the ONLY thing that will make you feel better about yourself is this: in a game of truth or dare, you could say “truth” everytime because you are not scared of being judged, you have nothing to hide, you don’t feel ashamed. And in a TRUTH or LIKE world, take the first steps to UNJUDGEMENT.

Publish ONE post today that doesn’t show how perfect and great everything is; a picture or a post or a blog – anything really that is simply the unmasked truth.

Hard? Impossible? Okay, I will start! Here is my truth today:

I am letting my hair grow and right now, I look pretty much like an exploded squirrel. I haven’t gone to the gym in two weeks and there is really no excuse for that; inspite of promoting a healthier lifestyle and eating better I crave banana pancakes and bacon today and I have a hard time shaking memories of childhood abuse because last night’s dreams come back to me in flashes. And you know what? None of that makes me feel ashamed. I am me. This is my life. I am loved JUST AS I AM and I love people JUST FOR WHO THEY ARE.

Today I want to try not to judge once. And I am dying to find out how you are faring in that quest? Have you judged today? Have you felt judged? I am very much looking forward to hearing from you 🙂 please leave a comment below!

Deb

 

The Truth About Being A Doctor

One of the first things people will ask you in any social circumstance – whether you meet for the first time (online or in real life), your accidental seat buddy aboard a long-distance flight, your potential in-laws, your hairdresser – literally almost anyone you encounter – is WHAT DO YOU DO FOR A LIVING? Obviously, that is one of THE most important things about you; something that characterizes you; something that yes, LABELS you – because God knows, the human race just LOVES to label!

What do you do for a living sign

People’s reactions will differ depending on their own professions and social status, but also in respect to WHAT IT MEANS TO THEM. Seriously, your hairdresser couldn’t care less about what you do for a living as long as you can pay for your haircut; and the person beside you on the plane is probably just interested in a “good” and interesting conversation with great stories to pass the time, so they will be hoping you are a cop rather than a plumber. But your girfriend’s or boyfriend’s parents? To them it will really matter what you do because after all, you might be ending up at the altar with their kid and become a parent to their future grandkids.

At any rate, you can be damn sure and certain that most people will judge you by many standards – your clothes, your looks, your hair, your car etc – but one of the things that will really determine your “rank” on the social ladder is your job.

When you think about it – how sad is that really? How full of preconceived notions are we, how prejudiced, how full of bullshit that ANY ONE OF US would rather see our kid date a lawyer than a construction worker, a nurse rather than a stripper –  NO MATTER how decent the guy/girl is? Frankly, it sucks. We have learned and been taught that social rank means more than being a good, kind, reliable, decent human being.

I will tell you, though, that it’s not funny being on the other side either. So let me tell you a bit about that. As you will know if you are a regular on my site – I am a doctor. A surgeon, to be exact. Being a doctor will always – and I do mean always – get you a proper social ranking. People may not know ANYTHING about you – you could be a serial killer or a Republican 😉 – but as soon as you say the magic words “I am a doctor” they will give you the look. What look? The look of approval and respect. The “oh wow, oh really, good for you!” look. Then, inevitably, the next question: what kind of a doctor are you? That one is tricky. No one is really crazy about sitting beside a pathologist who handles dead bodies or an infectiologist who deals with worms and germs. But you can never, ever go wrong with “I am a surgeon”. And up the ladder you climb until you can actually ring the golden bell right at the top. Don’t get me wrong – I love that being a surgeon opens doors for me. Just as much as I hate it when people oohh and ahhhh because I am a surgeon if thats the only goddamn thing they know about me.Trust me I am a surgeon

I will be honest with you people. I have no earthly clue what kind of superhero demigod image people have in their heads or whether they actually think of all the years of school and university and residency you had to put in to actually become what you are – and therefore they are in awe. What I do know, though, is that most everyone I know (unless they work in the medical field themselves or know someone really well who does) has a completely wrong picture in their heads of what it is like to be a doctor. To be a surgeon.

Let me get something off my chest first before I blow your minds and destroy your fantasies 😉 – I love being a doctor. I love to help people, I crave solving the puzzles of disease and diagnosis, it’s awesome to be “in the zone”, at the table, all sterile, with your thoughts completely focused, holding out hand saying “knife” or “ten blade” or “scalpel” and actually cutting into human flesh, completely trusting your own abilities to cut, help and heal. And it is the absolute best feeling in the world when you know you have helped make a life better or you have even saved a life. It doesn’t get much better than that, folks. But those moments? Are rare. A surgeon’s, a doctor’s life isn’t all glory; its more all guts.

Here is the truth: being a surgeon means that more often than not you are too tired or too exhausted to actually enjoy being a surgeon. You go to school busting your ass to get good grades, excellent grades, so that you can go to medical school. Medical school will cost you an arm and a leg no matter where you are in the world; maybe you have rich parents or you have a scholarship or maybe you work 5, 6, 7 different jobs at the same time to be able to put yourself through school like I did. Don’t get me wrong – I loved med school. I loved hanging out with my study budies, I loved to learn about the human body, I loved to understand a little more every day how it all works; but those were also years in which I hardly slept, worked many nights, studied until I broke down in tears from exhaustion. Then finally, finally you are a doctor. OMG I will never in my life forget the feeling after my last exam when my professors came out after discussing my performance and they all shook my hand saying “congratulations, DOCTOR.” I felt on top of the world! A month later I was in my surgical internship – where 36 hours on, 12 hours off wasn’t the exception but the rule; you learned to live, breathe and be “the hospital”. And all of a sudden there is no more time or stamina for anything but this: becoming a surgeon. Internship and residency are tough. Really tough. You are in constant competition with your peers to get your surgeries; you work long hours; you are on your feet all day, all night; everyday you end up with different bodily fluids on you; you get thrown up on, bled on, peed on, pooped on. You learn to eat anything remotely edible running from the ER to the OR; you get introduced to the fact that as a doctor you may not feel disgusted; you may not think something or someone is too gross to touch.

I remember being on nightshift as a 3rd year resident when the ambulance brought in a homeless man, unconscious but breathing, and once he was transferred to an ER cot I could see something strange moving under his pant leg. I cut it open and looked at what must have been thousands of maggots happily feeding on his rotten flesh. One nurse screamed, another passed out – the surgical resident doesn’t have that luxury. You get to remove all one thousand and one maggot just so you can see whats hiding under them……and treat it. Seriously, though. I have lost lives, I have saved them. I have doubted myself, I have felt like I own the world. Being a doctor is about helping others and yet it is one of the most anti-social professions that you could choose. You will miss family reunions, birthdays, parties – because you are ON CALL. You will bail out on social engagements, dinners, movies, ball games because you are too freaking tired after the so many-eth night shift in a row. In your “free” time you can only think of one thing you really, really want to do: sleep. You get cranky and pale and relationships go down the drain a mile a minute. And then, miraculously, residency is over and …. things will get better 😉

‘Whew! Five surgeries in one day! Well, let’s try to make this last one end on a happy note!’

Better, but nothing like the “glory” most people connect you with. Having peoples’ lives in your hands day in day out never gets to be routine and you are always under pressure. Of course, you also always feel guilty toward your spouse, your kids, your friends because you never have enough time, because you miss soccer games and rehearsals and because when you are home, more often than not you are tired and cranky.

Being a doctor is a calling. It is not a “dream job”. And when you eventually get to a point where you earn a decent salary (and have paid off your student loans!) you actually do deserve every single cent.

The truth about being a doctor? It is one of the most gratifying professions that one can choose AND it is tied to a hell of a lot of sacrifices that you and the ones closest to you will have to make along the way. Is it worth it? In moments when I come out of the OR after many hours on my feet without peeing or drinking or eating or do so much as scratch my itchy nose but knowing I saved a life? Oh yeah, its worth it. Or when my son proudly proclaims to everyone waiting at the ER when he needed his arm get checked out after a trampoline fall: MY mom cuts people open! Yes, its worth it. And then, at moments when I am not the best spouse or mother or friend that I could be just because I am too tired to move my ass, no, its not worth it.  Would I choose to become a doctor again if I had that choice again? Absolutely. Because at the end of the day when someone asks me: So, what do YOU do for a living? And I can answer: I am a doctor – I feel proud. And it feels right.

Finally, I would love to hear about your professions – what people think of them, how they react and what the pro’s and con’s are! Please engage in comments below. Thanks!

Deb

Trump And Women

What does Donald J. Trump have to do with my website? Vitalis Vitae means “vital to life”. Being a woman in today’s society, gender equality, lesbian & gay rights – all of these topics and many more that have been shaken in their cores by the beliefs, propaganda and the alternative facts of Mr. President. Hence, the impact he has had and will have is without a doubt vital to life. Throughout the campaign the issue of “Trump and women” seemed to come back around every other corner that we turned with the candidates, throughout debates and media wars and verbal mud fights. Donald J. Trump has been in office for roughly over 100 days now. Way past time to take another good look at what him being President of the United States means, especially for women!How to make america great again

Trump’s Alternative Reality

The human race wouldn’t exist without men and women alike; we aren’t the same but we are equals. In the 21st century we all should have learned and understood that a peson’s GENDER is the least important thing about someone. Someone can be good or bad, a villain or a saint, brutal or kind, smart or dumb, prejudiced or liberal or anything in between REGARDLESS of their gender. Any human, regardless of race, ethnic background, religion, sexual orientation, gender etc should be treated with equal respect. Well, Donald Trump lives an an alternative reality where women are simply less – in his eyes, we are worth(-)less accessories whose best role is to look beautiful, keep ourDJT at Hooters mouths shut, obey, never affront our men by thinking for ourselves and of course, spread our legs whenever the master pleases. In other words, for Donald J. Trump a woman, at best, is a well-paid whore. Lets look at a few things he has said about women, shall we?

  • 2005 for “Access Hollywood“: “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it, you can do anything. Grab them by the pussy, you can do anything.”
  • In 2012 he targeted the co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post by criticising her appearance and making fun of her divorce. In a tweet he said: (she) is unattractive both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man- he made a good decision.
  • In 2013 about Rosie O’Donnel (a tv host and celebrity who also happens to be a lesbian): she is “disgusting, both inside and out” and that if he were running her show he’d “look her right in that fat, ugly face of hers and say, ‘Rosie, you’re Rosie O'Donnel and family fired.” He also said that Rosie was a person who’s very lucky to have her girlfriend. And she’d better be careful or I’ll send one of my friends over to pick up her g/f, why would she stay with Rosie if she had another choice?”

 

  • In 2015, about Hillary Clinton, in a tweet: if Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?
  • In 2013 a study found that around 26,000 sexual assaults in the military went unreported. Rather than look at the military justice system or root causes for assaults going unreported, Trump drew other conclusions: “26,000 unreported sexual Men and women in the military assults in the military-only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when they put men & women together?”

 

  • In 2006, he joked on national television that if Ivanka was not his own daughter, he would be dating her: “Yeah, she’s really something, and what a beauty, that one. If I weren’t happily married and, ya know, her father…”
  • In a 1991 interview with Esquire magazine, Trump said about female journalists:”It doesn’t really matter what (they) write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.”
  • In 1990 about his then-wife Ivana: “I would never buy Ivana any decent jewels or pictures. Why give her negotiable assets?”
  • In 1994 about a “wife’s duties” : “I have days where, if I come home — and I don’t want to sound too much like a chauvinist, but when I come home and dinner’s not ready, I go through the roof.” – “I think that putting a wife to work is a very dangerous thing,” said Trump. “Unfortunately, after they’re a star, the fun is over for me. It’s like a creation process. It’s almost like creating a building. It’s pretty sad.”
  • In 2015 Trump was in court testifying in a deposition over a failed Florida real estate project when lawyer Elizabeth Beck asked to take a break to breastfeed her three-month old daughter. The property mogul and his team objected, so she pulled out her breast pump to prove it. In an incident that Trump does not dispute, he walked out of the room, telling Beck she was “disgusting”.
  • In the 2016 campaign: Trump caused mass outage after advocating “some form of punishment” for women who have an abortion, should it be outlawed in the US. The Republican says he has “evolved” on the issue of abortion. He was pro-choice for years before changing his position and backing a ban. He now believes the Supreme Court ruling legalising abortion should be overturned and that individual states should be allowed to ban it. His campaign team said he believes abortion should be legal only in instances of rape, incest or when the life of the mother was at stake.”There has to be some form of punishment,” Trump told MSNBC, referring to women who would seek to defy the ban. Trump reversed his position two hours later, with a statement saying that he would punish doctors who performed abortions but not the women themselves. Well that’s alright then.
  • In 2016 Associated Press spoke to insiders on reality show The Apprentice USA, who claimed that former host Trump used to rate female contestants by the size of their breasts and talked about who he’d like to have sex with. Former crew members recalled that he repeatedly made lewd comments about a camerawoman – who he said had a nice rear – comparing her beauty to that of his daughter, Ivanka. Others said Trump called for female contestants to wear shorter dresses, which showed more cleavage. Producer Katherine Walker added that Trump frequently talked about women’s bodies and speculated about which female contestant would be “a tiger in bed”. Another crew member, who asked not to be identified, recalled: “We were in the boardroom one time figuring out who to blame for the task, and he just stopped in the middle and pointed to someone and said, ‘You’d f*** her, wouldn’t you? I’d f*** her. C’mon, wouldn’t you?'”
  • In 1992 another unearthed tape of Trump from an appearance on TV show Entertainment Tonight, showed the billionaire watching a group of young girls going up the escalator in Trump Tower. “I am going to be dating her in 10 years. Can you believe it?” he is heard saying of one of them. He was 46 at the time.

 

 

Those statements speak for themselves, don’t you think? Just remember that this guy is the leader of the free world. Shocking? Well …. we shouldn’t forget that among his campaign promises were: appointing pro-life judges (thereby taking away a woman’s right to choose/abort); he promised to defund planned parenthood, even reinstating the global-gag-rule; and he promised Christians that he would defend “traditional marriage” thus threatening to overrule Obama’s laws on same-sex marriage.

The verbal diarrhea that comes out of this man’s foul mouth has affected me personally on many levels. I am a woman. I am gay. My daughter is 8 years old. He could make such a remark (see above) as he did about that young girl in Trump Tower about MY child. I am smart, educated and sorry, Donald, far from ugly. I am not gay because I haven’t met the right guy to f*** some sense into me; I am gay because I was BORN that way.

The unspeakable happened, sisters & brothers. Donald J. Trump got elected. And now what? Now we can’t shut up! Now we have to stand up taller, fight harder and protect our rights! We can’t allow a narcissistic sexist radical tyrant to pull us all back into the dark ages.

If he were to read this post I wonder which unqualified ugly comments he would have in store for me. He would probably call me an ugly dyke who deserved to be abused and who’d do better by packing up her surgeon’s scalpel, divorce her wife, marry a “good” man and learn where her place is. Whether you’re a man or a woman, gay or straight, whether you voted for him or not – take a look at yourself and ask yourself what he’d say about YOU.

100 days. 100 days and I am still stunned, shocked and overwhelmed by the fact that this has happened.

 

If you feel the same or have a completely different opinion I invite you to leave a comment below and join in a discussion! I would really like to hear from y’all!

Thanks for reading!

Deb

 

Way Back When

When was the last time you remember waking up just bursting with energy, filled from the depth of your soul with a pure and genuine happiness, an undying curiosity as to what this day may hold in store for you, not a worry, not a care, not an inkling of your “to do” list anywhere in the Penumbra of your brain? When was the last time you opened your eyes in the morning feeling completely in tune with yourself and everything around you? Let me guess. For you, as for me, that was way back when. Way back, when you were still a child. Before life removed all the innocence. Before you fell into the trap of “growing up”.

Children in the morning

 

 

 

 

Our lives are one giant ball of hectic – social media, responsibilities and schedules; we don’t make our agendas – we live inside of them, like Alice who fell down the rabbit hole, we fell into the spiral of adulthood. As much as we haste and run to get from one appointment to the next, blogging and tweeting and texting while we rush along, we are on the constant search for that elusive feeling described above. In short, we all look for simple, pure and untainted happiness as we only knew it when we were young. And most of us spend a lifetime in vain trying to recapture this joy.

 

I wonder does that happen to you, too? Do you occassionally come across pictures that were taken during various moments of your childhood and you wonder what the hell happened? What happened to the kid with the mile-wide smile that hang upside-down from a tree branch? The kid that gazed up at his/her parents with eyes full of trust and love? The dare-devil kid on the skateboard just wearing shorts on a hot summer day with skinned knees and  a cloud of ecstatic joy ? What happened?

Life. Life happened.

Some of us got hurt pretty badly, even as children, and lost that joy and innocence way before adulthood even came around the corner. Most of us grew up through more or less annoying puberty into our teenage years and emerged on the other side of school and university as young adults. Lets face it, we all thought we owned the world. Way back when? We still believed we could do ANYTHING. Life may have already taught us some lessons, we may have lost friends along the way, learned how to lose competitions, get bad grades, lose the unconditional trust in adults; but we still believed in ourselves.

However, life had more in store, didn’t it? We started to make choices. As we exchanged run-down student dorms for apartments and eventually a 3 bedroom house in the suburbs, the cool motorcycle for the boring minivan, the nights with little sleep because we were hanging out with friends for the nights with no sleep because the baby won’t quit crying … as we exchanged all that, we also seem to have exchanged our joy, happiness and most of all our belief in ourselves for the constant struggle of staying on the treadmill of mortgage and child support.

It is funny in a weird, conflicting way that even though we all know this to be true, most of us recoil from the mere notion of admitting that we used to be carefree and purely happy WAY BACK WHEN and we really aren’t now that we lead the life everyone expects us to lead. Admitting that not everything in our lovely little lives is PERFECT and makes us REALLY HAPPY seems to be one of the capital sins of society. What terrible fate would befall us if we sat down and wrote down all the things that SHOULD make us happy – but really don’t? What would happen if after that, we’d sit down with our wives and husbands, our boyfriends and girlfriends and actually opened up about this? OMG. Just the thought makes you feel guilty and slightly nauseous, doesn’t it? We have been taught what is and what isn’t proper, what is and what isn’t socially acceptable. Being UNHAPPY  living the All American Dream – that surely isn’t acceptable….. or is it?!

I believe that we start losing our pure joy and life energy the second we start worrying about what others expect of us – and try to fit ourselves into that mold. It starts in childhood of course when we start modifying ourselves so that parents, friends, teacher etc “like”, love and appreciate us – but a lot of that modification still comes naturally and doesn’t change our core self. The older we grow, the more modification. We are expected to behave; expected to get good grades; expected to earn scholarships, learn a profession or get a university degree; we are expected to want to be successful; to want to meet Ms. or Mr. Right, get married, have a family. We are expected to build or buy a house, become loving and devoted parents – and somewhere along the line forget who we once were; the little boy or girl who loved to play in the mud, manicure be damned.

I love my life. But I haven’t always. Just until a few years ago I was caught in the same spiral from above. I did things because they were expected of me; because I didn’t want to hurt people I loved – or believed loved me. I wanted to become a military fighter pilot. I couldn’t because I was myopic – but joining the military was out of the question anyway because my parents wouldn’t have approved. I studied medicine. Don’t get me wrong – I haven’t regretted being a doctor a single day in my life. I can’t help but wonder, though, whom I tried to appeace and impress with that decision. Myself? Or my parents?

I realized I was gay when I was still a child. Yet I waited until I was almost 20 to come out to my parents. Why? The fall of grace, of course. I knew that they expected something different of me. However – being gay was probably the “thing”, the deciding factor, that actually set me free from those expectations; I knew that this was a moral and core part of me that I couldn’t and wouldn’t deny or modify or adjust to the expectations around me. It was so life-changing; and I felt that if I am not loved exactly for who I am, I don’t need the “fake” pretense love of people who don’t even want to know the real me.

Now? I love my life. I don’t love my minivan; I know its the sensible solution with two kids and a lot of animals 🙂 but I really, really don’t love it and it sure as hell doesn’t give me joy!

Nissan 390 ZA Nissan 390 Z would give me a lot more joy 😉 – pure, untainted, childlike – but knowing that and admitting it makes me feel less resentful that I can’t have that right now – and hopeful that one day when the kids are a bit older I WILL get that for myself :-).

I love my life but I don’t love the fact that as soon as you are parents, making love to my wife isn’t something anymore that can happen literally all the time anywhere :-). Does that bug me? Sure it does! Who of us doesn’t get frustrated when we just have an intimate kissing moment in the kitchen that could lead to much more – and boom! one of the kids barges in (of course without knocking on the closed door….), loudly announcing that they are STARVING! 😉 It frustrates me and bugs me and because I can admit that it does it loses it’s oppressing weight and I can manage to turn the potential negative energy into a positive excitement because at some point the kids WILL be in bed ;-).

What I am trying to say is this: dare to admit to yourself and to your spouse all the things that bug you or that you aren’t happy with. It doesn’t mean you don’t love your spouse, your kids, your life – it just means that you also haven’t forgotten to LOVE YOURSELF and to value what is important to you!

I will let you in on a secret. I try to remember things that used to make me happy as a child and occassionally, I let go of all adult decorum and just join my kids in their chaotic riots :-). In those moments I try to see life from their point of view and try to forget whats considered proper and what isn’t.

 

I will play with them in the mud, get dirty, start food fights, fill balloons with water to throw as bombs (cleaning the windows be damned); we all know burping isn’t proper but it makes my children roll on the floor with laughter if I let one rip after drinking a coke; I “wrestle” with my son and we claw at each other, pull hair and sure, spit at each other; and after when we are exhausted we just shower and all’s proper again 😉

I am the parent. I am responsible, I protect them and I’d never engage in anything that could hurt them in any way. But I believe in letting them gift me with their pure joy while I allow them a glimpse of the person I used to be before LIFE happened, before I got modified and updated. My kids absolutely love that.

So in a world where we just stress to meet everyone’s expectations I advice you to stop for a minute and re-evaluate. Compromises are part of life. So is fulfilling responsibilities. The question is: do you do that at the cost of YOURSELF? I advice you to go looking for that kid you were way back when and try to learn something from him / her. And who knows? Maybe you will wake up one morning sometime soon, actually looking forward to the day, filled with love and hope and joy and happy to just be!

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below! I’d love to hear from you and what you think about the “inner child idea” 🙂 Let me know!

Deb