I just deleted a rather long post. When I have little time to write and even less time to become inspired about writing in general it seems foolish to erase 30 minutes worth of writing. But I don't want this to become a droll blog where I complain about things I am frustrated with. I think there is some good stuff to relate regarding the struggles, but I don't want this to be all struggles. The crux of what I was hoping to write about was the lack of words in my life right now. The lack of my own creative self in many ways. The general lack of inspiration and art in my life due to the overwhelming amount of learning and working that is occurring. My small amounts of free time are focused mainly on eating, sleeping or the maintenance of the minimal aspects of personal life and it has made me think about how I work as a human and what the true price of this training is for me.
Creativity for me is something that occurs within a larger space devoid of other activities. I can't "make time" to play the cello. I must have time . . . and then the cello playing occurs within it - or not. The same with writing and cooking and all things creative. I am not the "perspiration" sort of individual that produces creative works through sustained labor. I am the "inspiration" sort of person that needs space and beauty around me and then mysteriously I find myself moved, almost forced, to accomplish some creative task whether it be writing, building, playing my cello or simply sculpting a garden out of dirt. When this happens I can work all night, play music for hours or simply converse with a close friends about things spiritual and philosophical without exhaustion. What I am mourning right now is the profound lack of that empty space with which arise the opportunities of for my own self expression. The lack of that space is starting to take some of the color out of the day it feels like.
My mind tends to be very busy and almost reactionary. I am ADD and all stimulation, no matter how small, sets my mind into some intricate pattern of observation, analysis and prediction so that I can form an action. It is part of why I loved physics and why I love Emergency Medicine. It is only when I find myself in the profound lack of human stimulation that thoughts and events arise spontaneously for me that are not the sum of some mental equation. These thoughts are the expressions of who I am. This is why I am an introvert in much of my off-time. Most folks don't believe me because I am very social and enjoy interacting with people but I find it exhausting. These conversations & interactions for me are like gymnastics, fun and stimulating but draining in many ways because they set my brain into action automatically, muscle memory. This is why I prefer backpacking alone or sitting in the silence of the forest as my way of recharging. Throughout my twenties I took road trips in my Subaru, alone, for a month at a time every summer. I never went to distant cities or to visit friends, I sought out the loneliest, most empty and beautiful places I could find and I was my own best company! It was in this time I talked to myself, made music, played my cello or simply sat writing stories into my journals. It was when I was away from all the stimulation and expectations of others that I felt I knew who I was and what I wanted to say or be.
I know where these reactionary aspects of my personality came from and I know why they were once useful and how they can be used effectively and beneficially in my life now, but they need strict limits. I know that to maintain balance I must put brakes on the reflexive and machine like parts of who I am and maintain time for the other facets or I am afraid I will lose them. This is hard to do in residency as it demands, for the most part, the machine like parts of me and less so the human ones. I am frightened because I have never felt more distant from myself and my life as I do now. Part of this is the isolation of living in a new, unfamiliar place, but part of it is about who I am becoming. I am starting to not fully recognize parts of me that seemed so familiar only 10 years ago. Back then I was living in the mountains of New Mexico running a telescope, nearly isolated, at almost 10,000 feet. I had just left a short stint in philosophy trying to find something I was not only passionate about but good at as well. I remember sitting in front of a wood burning stove at night, in the winter, with snow all around. I was listening to the crack of antlers from the male bull elk as they would collide in contest over some female. There was the sound of the bugling elk, the crackle of the wood in my stove and perhaps the mist from the cup of tea I would be drinking. Nothing else. No street lights. No car noises. No human stimulation at all aside from my own breathing . . . and then I would pick up my cello or my journal and see what rose from within me.
Now I want to pick up my pen (or keyboard) but I don't know what to say. I don't feel inspired by anything. I am not unhappy, I am just less dimensional than I once was and I feel sort of flat. I want to be more than a functioning doctor in an emergency department. It is good, but it is only a single thing to own in your life. Medicine is a great gift and wonderful honor to be given the chance to help people that need you, but it is still only one thing and the world is a varied and beautiful place with so much that is important besides sodium levels and lactate. I am told this will pass, that this is part of my training and that it requires continued sacrifice, but that afterward I will have the means and the time to create the life I want. Not only will I have the means for my life outside medicine, but I will have the honor of being a physician and truly of service to those around me. I still believe it and I know that will be a good time, but it is not always easy watching so much of life passing by in the meantime.
It is fall time again, my absolute favorite time of year. I see the neighbor kids playing in the leaves when I bike home from the hospital. I see the sports games being played on school fields in the crisp autumn air. I see houses full of families being decorated for Halloween. It is a time very rich in my mind with the fabric of communities and life and I feel more separate from it all right now than ever. My schedule is filled with start times for shifts and end times and any time in between is filled with "I shoulds" regarding my residency reading, testing, self education and such. Meanwhile my cello sits in its case. My back yard garden is looking a bit neglected. My writing is mediocre and uninspired. My waistline is softer than it should be and my level of fitness lower. I have not been in the mountains in a long time. Books of literature & philosophy are not being read and when not being read the ideas that they would inspire are not being thought. I am tired and I simply want 8 hours of sleep and enough time in the morning for a cup of tea. My biggest hope when I go to bed is that my dreams won't again be about sick patients in the hospital that I am responsible for but instead I hope that they will be about the life I don't have time for while awake. A life of mountains, friends, music and . . . well, life.