Today I am starting a new endeavour. I signed up for monthly creative writing care packages from a group in Toronto called Firefly Creative Writing. These envelopes are meant to inspire and open the doors to writing, in people like myself who don’t often find the time to sit down and devote ourselves to the task.
The stimulus word this month is Devotion, and we are urged to stir the creative juices around this theme all through this month. Here is my first go:
To whom, to what, am I devoted? The answer seems clear as day: my children, my husband, my parents, my sisters, my patients and medicine. Am I devoted to myself? This is one concept that is difficult as a full time working physician and mother. I spent so many years working towards various goals: finish my studies, become a doctor, get married, have kids, make enough money to support a family. When does devotion get returned to me?
I see love and caring in the eyes of my children, and yes, they are devoted to me – but they are also separate beings growing and changing and becoming spectacular souls. My husband is devoted to me, but must spread that devotion to our children and to his own world of triathlon training and maintenance of our home. My parents devote a portion of themselves to me, but also to my sisters, to each other, to their own patients and medical practice.
I suppose, then, devotion is by necessity something that is divided. The dictionary definition, “love, loyalty or enthusiasm for a person, activity or cause” certainly sums it up correctly: one can be devoted to numerous things all at once.
It is time, then, to become devoted to myself. Time for self-reflection, self-care, and improving my own core being. I spend so much time trying to help others, that I get lost in the process.
As a physician mother, my life looks something like this: wake at 6 a.m. after a night broken up by kids having nightmares, needing to pee, or just needing a snuggle. Do morning routine, get kids to school with help of husband, by 7:45 a.m. Head to work for 8:00 am and work non-stop, usually mostly on my feet, with no breaks for snack, lunch or clearing my head, until about 6 pm. Leave work and get home around 6:30 or 7 pm, join family in time for bath, stories and bedtime. Snuggle kids and love them till they pass out around 9 pm. Spend time with husband if he’s not already asleep, then sit down for late dinner (sometimes with, sometimes without husband) and watch tv or read news on my phone until I pass out somewhere around midnight. Get woken usually once or twice a night by my warm cozy kids needing me, and start over again at 6 a.m. Alternatively, if I work nights, I get up at 6 a.m., do morning routine, take kids to school, do all sorts of stuff all day long (academic commitments, housework, paperwork) and try to nap a couple of hours, pick up kids from school at 4, hang out with family, dinner, bath, bedtime and leave for work at 10:30 pm.
In all of this there is no time or space for me. Today, as I write this, I have a total of 5 hours of sleep under my belt after a late shift last night, and I go to work at 10:30 pm tonight so won’t sleep again until around noon tomorrow. I carved out a couple of hours this afternoon to take care of family finances, and to devote time to writing. At the expense of sleep.
No one teaches us in school that life is hard.
It’s hard for everyone; there are very few for whom life is easy. We are all on different paths that take us to places and situations we never dreamed, be those positive or negative. Those paths are not usually straightforward, and the work it takes to arrive at our goals is not simple or light.
But in all this, in the maze we create for ourselves, there needs to be some devotion to our own souls.
Today, I asked my chief and ED scheduler to consider allowing me to work as a nocturnist; i.e., only night shifts. Am I crazy? Perhaps. But working two or three nights a week will allow me to keep consistency in my schedule, stick to a sleep routine, and be there for my family in a much more present way. Of course it will mean that I am absent from my marital bed for half my life (shocking to think of it that way) but that is what happens right now anyways – along with days, evenings and weekend shifts thrown into the mix. I think it’s the best thing for me and for my family, and I don’t plan on doing it forever. I see working nights for a few years, then re-evaluating.
I finally feel like I’m taking a step towards improving myself, and to me, this is the meaning of devotion.