What Does Work-Life Balance Mean?
February 20, 2021
I usually want to present pretty pictures of nature and trash art for the readership. But yesterday I dragged this plastic large thing (I think it’s the underside of a car) from the corner of the HMO parking lot to the trash can near this hidden back patio where employees eat. I dragged it there and gave myself 3 bag credit. I’m at 13 bags of trash now, and I committ to 20 bags for the month. Honestly, around my neighborhood is pretty clean and I get to the beach about twice a week at most. I have a lot of environmental projects to do, and since I really am trying to save the earth – I’m taking the easy way out and picking up trash around the canyons and the HMO parking lot. And there is a lot of trash.
I had time at lunch yesterday to go on a walk with Dr. Dear Friend and we visited the baby succulents. She was tired and feeling sad, because a dear family member is very sick and in hospice. We are all going through life struggles and it’s important to hear our friends. So we walked up the HMO parking structure and I leant her my water bottle and she squirted some water on our succulent babies. We chatted and we were just together as colleagues and friends. The succulent babies are doing well, and you can check out Instagram to see how they are doing. I usually post at least once a week photos. They are succulents so they don’t really need to be watered. We are planning on planting trees up there and some succulent fairy gardens.
And then after our initial walk, I had to answer some questions at the clinic. And then went for a second quick walk to clear my mind. At that walk I dragged that big plastic can underside thing to the trash. I also watered the rosemary bushes at a corner of the HMO that I’m working on. I thought I was going to make it a pollinator garden or a native succulent garden, but honestly it’s already a pollinator spot because there are tons of bees near the rosemary bushes. I just cleaned up the trash around that area, and sprinkled some coffee grounds to give the soil a bit more nitrogen. And then watered it with the same water bottle that we had used to water the succulents. It’s a funny water bottle because I found it on the beach months ago. I like using things that I’ve found because it reminds me how wasteful our society is. So the rosemary bushes are a place I visit, and I have plans to plant just some fennel or maybe thyme over there. It will truly be a secret herb garden there, and they are all good for pollinators too.
After I finished my second short walk around the HMO area, I sat at what I think of as my table now.
It’s really anyone’s table, and I hope it brings a few people at work some joy. It was a table that was missing it’s umbrella, and I put my upcycled wicker basket planter that has my cut out butterflies. It’s all upcycled things there, and the succulents I’ll just spritz with water maybe twice a month. They don’t need more than that. A lot of the pieces in that planter are upcycled from actual HMO waste. There is so much waste everywhere.
Despite having time to take two walks at lunch, the friday afternoon schedule was jam packed. I’ve been practicing medicine for almost 15 years and I have a lot of patients. I enjoy my patients and I honestly let the nurses and schedulers just do whatever they want with my schedule. The last two appointments are supposed to be easy telephone appointments, but I saw two physical appointments at 430 and 445. I spent extra time with them, because they are two kids I’ve known their whole life and they see me once a year. I want to actually improve their health and practice the way I want, so I take my time and I ran a bit late.
The real reason I was late and missed our Friday night take-out dinner with my own children, which made me very sad, is that I had three teenagers I saw in follow up. They are all better, improved. As their pediatrician and this new transcendent woke Dr. Plastic Picker – I no longer leave it to psychiatry or the specialists to help my patients. As I mentioned it my KevinMD podcast, “I am the answer. I am the answer to plastic pollution and the broken healthcare system.” And for those three teens I am the answer. For one dear patient, I just hugged her and listened to her. That is it. I just told her to follow up with her specialist and that maybe medication would be an okay option but that “You don’t need to be fixed. You are not the problem, it’s society and everything that has happened to our world.” And another teen where I am honestly so floored that we are finally moving in the right direction after five years, it was simply really talking about food with her. Getting into the details about fruits and vegetables and fiber, and now she eats clementines and she is going regular and it cascaded into improved health in terms of psychiatric health as well. We are working on her sleep, and they are going to turn off a set of twinkling lights that are always on and they are going to listen to their psychiatrist and try this calming tea at night. Her anemia is almost within normal limits, and we are working on the next vegetable. I look at her weight and height curves but I don’t focus on it, and I don’t even show her now. But her BMI is finally trending in the right direction. Her mother is healthier too and drinking infused water at night, and we are all as a community becoming hippies together.
And that is why I was late home last night.
I was really sad when I came home, and they had finished dinner. It was sushi last night, and Friday nights are fun dinners. No one saved me any sushi. I don’t expect them too. I was sad and I told them that. My tween daughter hugged me and I guilted my teen son in hugging me as well. That real embrace from my teen son (because otherwise he’s in his teen world) was worth it. I am good at using guilt to manipulate my children. Am I manipulating my patients? No not really. I am not manipulating my children either. I was sad, and I told them that but I also told them that I helped three kids and it was worth it. I don’t work late hours at much, so these days happen maybe twice a month. Reducing our extra work duties has made a fundamental difference in my practice. Because I am usually home, I have more time and more of myself to give to my patients. My tank is full, and only with a full heart and a full life can we be fully present as healers.
So this morning I am no longer sad. I ate left-overs last night which was good since it averts food waste, and I felt justified sneaking in two girl scout cookies. And I went to bad, and this morning I have to go into work doing some unpaid middle-managment work. But that is the nature of middle management. And that is the nature of actually being a person and an involved member of the planet. Most of what we do is unpaid. Because money is just a currency for time and effort really. And how can you monetize life?
What does work-life balance mean? Even middle-aged middle-management me has no idea. I think the better question is are you happy and joyful? Then you wouldn’t even need to ask the former question.