Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Week Three: False Sense of Security Slipping Strong Sense of Self Gripping Fast

School is getting harder and scarier. But not because of the subject matter – it’s the sheer quantity of it. I still gladly, and eagerly, get up and gone before dawn just to get myself there. If the last six years of SHM-hood has stripped me of an identity then the last three weeks of school and being back “home” has almost completely returned it. Motherhood is hard. (Say that like a pull-string Barbie describes math.) It’s the hardest thing I have yet attempted – and I do mean attempted because I certainly haven’t mastered it. It offers no escape. There’s no amelioration for the condition. And, there’s definitely little sense of accomplishment. Not in this life and maybe not the next.

Maybe my approach to it was naïve. Ok. MY APPROACH WAS NAÏVE. I don’t have easy kids. And living in the countryside of an unfamiliar (and somewhat alienating) town was isolating and exacerbating to burnout. But those things didn’t wreak irreparable damage to my psyche. (My pride, most certainly.) These are all things from which I still have lots to learn. I hope for a change in perspective, but for now, I look at that part of my life as spinning my wheels.

I have learned more about myself, my husband and my children by being away from them these past three weeks then I ever learned being tied at the hip to them for six years. And it’s not an appreciation for something after it’s gone that I feel. I simply didn’t like who I was then. I was a burned out B---h, let’s face it. (I know three other people who will second that.) Now, I get the opportunity to again be the person I want to be. To lead a vita diligentissima and embrace capacities in myself and my children instead of trying to contain them in some misconceived domestic ideal. I get to ride the (still civilized) train. I patronize used bookstores, because without little fingers to chase after, I can. I am anxiously engaged in learning skills that will concretely benefit society. I get to have conversations about social injustices in medicine in the most powerful city in the (still, for now) most powerful nation and take part in affecting those changes. I sit, study and sometimes waste time in sidewalk cafés where words like “amorphous” are overheard to be used in neat little sentences that don’t require definition-laden appendices. All in all, I get to be intellectual but remain without the attitude. Because there’s nothing wrong with being refined when you also know how to drive a tractor and clean a chicken. The snake killing I will leave to my beautiful and refined mother. (See Week Two.)

Week Two: or, All I Ever Needed To Know For PA School I Learned at Meridian School.

Two things struck out at me this week. First, the review week is over and I’m still feeling, albeit anxiously, a false sense of security about subjects at school. Mostly because the stuff I’m learning is not new. Even the new stuff is just extensions of things I learned long ago, e.g. glycosidic linkages are straight out of AP Bio. And thanks to a much maligned, former marine-corps medic, 9th grade biology teacher I had at Meridian, I learned and memorized the structures of all 20 amino acids, major carbohydrates, the 4 nucleotides, glycolysis and the Calvin Cycle. By the time we were through, we could replicate, translate and transcribe DNA and carry out plant and animal metabolism with our hands tied behind our backs – literally, because he let us write on a t-shirt for every exam. I loved biochemistry before I knew what biochemistry was. So it’s no surprise that it’s my favorite class. Thank you Dr. Treadway.

What I also incorporate into PA school, is the sociology and philosophy I learned in senior seminar. We learned to think logically, write coherently and pull in different disciplines to discuss problems. It’s no coincidence that I see medicine as an art because of my liberal education. It’s also no coincidence that what I take from biochem fits into anatomy/physiology which then fits into clinical assessment. They are all integral to each other – may my scientist friends forgive me, that’s just the humanities talking.

The second thing I learned this week is that I still need my mommy. Mom was always good at allowing me a “mental health” day, as she called it. A day off from high school for no apparent illness or anything other than she thought I needed a break. I still take those days for myself – and allow my kids the same when the opportunity arises. She instilled in me, without trying, that balance is important. I’ve forgotten that – of course it’s hard to take a day off from being a mom and still have a house at the end of the day. Been there. Done that. And the proof is on the walls…the porch steps…the lawn…I think the cat has recovered by now. Anyway, I never would have adapted to school so well without her help and who knows where my kids or husband would be without her. For the past two weeks, she kept us all fed, clothed, cleaned and oh, yeah, she very heroically killed a snake for me. That was beyond the call of duty.

p.s. the train is still civilized; even when it is six hours late.