Settling In

Thursday, October 20, 2022


Life the last few days are feeling more settled. 

Background story: My last job came with a M-F schedule + light call 2 weeks per month. No weekends. Occasionally surgery ran late or I had to round on a patient at the hospital, but for the most part I knew what my days would look like. It wasn't perfect, but it was predicable. Side note, I have to wonder how you fellow every weekday workers get your teeth cleaned or go to the chiropractor because I never mastered that level of organization. 

About 9 months into the job, the surgeon I worked with accepted a position out of state. Because we were a team of two in a surgical subspecialty, once she left my role was going to be temporarily eliminated. I managed all of our post-ops for a month after her departure, then I was shifted over to General Surgery. We shared the same hallway and I'd assisted them before on certain cases so there was some familiarity, but it was a different schedule, different skill set, a different dynamic. It wasn't what I'd signed up for. A candidate to replace my boss interviewed then declined, so there was no immediate prospect for her replacement. 

I had all but decided to move on at that point—I'd hit the one year mark and the situation was much more nuanced than I feel comfortable sharing—which led me to reach out to another organization's recruiter to inquire about a job posting I'd come across. I had to reschedule my interview twice because of last minute scheduling changes at work, which was a clear indicator that the boundary between my work and home life wasn't what it should be. To be clear, I didn't mind getting called in to assist with middle of the night surgical emergencies and other less convenient aspects of the job. The fact is, I didn't feel fulfilled practicing that type of medicine, and you should be if you're going to make that many sacrifices in your personal life.

One of the biggest appeals of my current job is the 12-hour shift format. I work 14 shifts a month and the rest of the days are my own. My schedule is inconsistent right now and I'm commuting a lot, but come December things will begin to settle and I'm assured that my schedule will be fairly set. I think it'll be worth the small, unexpected wait.

The learning curve was STEEP the first few shifts on my own. I had never before charted on so many patients in a day, nor charted on so many different complaints, and I was completely overwhelmed. I spent a few hours organizing my charting templates on a Sunday afternoon and life got so much easier after that.

The best part of all this? I leave my work behind when I go home every night. No one calls me about a patient once I'm out the door. I set a rule for myself that all my charts are signed before I leave for the day so nothing ever carries over into my personal life or next shift. Each work day stands on its own, even if it means staying late to finish. And those 12-hour shifts? Because I'm consistently busy, they feel akin to the 8-hour days I used to work.

The more I settle in, the more I feel a pull toward balance in my free time. I was sacrificing entire days off just trying to feel normal again, never fully relaxing because my to-do list would run on repeat in the back of my mind. I was stuck in a dysfunctional vortex where I did nothing yet didn't feel rested, either. It's been the story of my life for a long time. There will be days like that in the future—days when my body + mind need total respite—but it's no longer all of my days off. And when it does happen, I'll embrace it without shame so it actually serves its purpose.

These days I'm limiting my day off to-do lists to 3 items. It's enough to make a dent in the chores while preserving my mental health. I'm also quick to forgive myself if I don't check them all off. As a result, I'm actually finding myself doing more during my free time. It seems once I relinquished myself from all the unnecessary expectations, and subsequent guilt, the internal resistance lifted. After months of ignoring household tasks, I feel drawn back in an almost intuitive way. [True story, I recently went almost two months without wearing a white t-shirt because I was resisting having to wash and hang a load of delicates.] I'm still working on meal prep/cooking, but I'll get there when I'm ready. Tonight, I'm making Husband a long ago promised casserole. Baby steps.

For the first time in months, earlier this week I dedicated an entire afternoon to plant care. I put on an audiobook and took my time caring for them. Watering, rearranging, cleaning, treating for pests, and setting up/refilling humidifiers. I've had some plants perish this year, and I've let go of many others that didn't like my care or I didn't love. Most of all, I don't feel guilty anymore because they didn't survive the season I was in. This is my hobby, meant for enjoyment, and like many things I applied unnecessary pressure that robbed it of pleasure. I've also made an interesting observation of late: I no longer pursue nor buy challenging plants; plants that are picky, pest magnets, or have died on my watch before. What I'm left with is fewer "collector" plants, and more beautiful tried and true favorites. Focusing on quality over quantity—while being realistic about what I can offer—has brought me closer to my ideal plant collection.

Other instinctual goals as of late: less screen time, more reading for pleasure, more baths/sauna sessions, comfier clothing, and less clutter.

Some days, it's okay to simply light a candle and watch YouTube videos.

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