I’ve been reflecting this week on all the ‘stuff’ – the cultural and self expectations that come with my roles of physician, mother, wife, friend, and daughter; never mind the uncharted and less defined territory of Integrative Medicine physician. As a doctor practicing Integrative Medicine and Functional Medicine the definitions and expectations are not as clear, separate, and safe to inhabit as conventional roles.
Yet perhaps this space of relative ambiguity provides me with more room to witness the miracles that are happening with you, my patients. I am allowed the opportunity to encourage the growth and transformation that invariably surfaces out of addressing their health challenges.
As the seasons evolve again – leaves falling, temperatures changing, and chaotic fires burning both inside and out – I am reflecting on the gratitude I have on my journey. This is what’s on my mind as I pray for guidance and clarity in all of my roles, both professional and personal.
More often than not this time of year, I find I tend to observe contrasts. With the theme of transformation and change it seems the things I feel gratitude about are sometimes appreciated that much more because of the contrast with what ‘could have been.’
I am thankful for my health – as opposed to the sickness that I could have experienced.
I am thankful for my loved ones – as opposed to having to face the loss of them.
I am thankful for my safety – as opposed to being in danger.
I am thankful for my job. Especially how it is so much more satisfying than it used to be when I was constrained by a conventional medical role.
Part of my calling is to educate and inspire people to LIVE IT in their lives – meaning to create a realistic lifestyle to support good health every day. This includes embracing the present and living fully through it, no matter what life brings.
Although sometimes my role is to educate or medicate, it is always to sit in sacred witness of whatever is happening with you. It is an honor and a responsibility that is sometimes challenging. The deep pain of experiencing with you your losses, your body on fire, brain on fire or the destructive fire all around reddens my cheeks, tears my eyes, and squeezes my heart.
You see, I am transforming along with you.
I am thankful that I can be with you as a sacred witness. It is all bigger than I am, and bigger than we all are. Yet we can each choose to be fully present to our own journeys.
This week, as I was reflecting on my roles, on the awful fires and losses in California, and a feeling of helplessness as I watch a brave patient face pain and surgery, I was reminded of a poem that I wrote in 1991. I wrote it when I returned from my stay in Bangladesh as a Harvard Rockefeller Fellow. It was published in Maryknoll magazine.
Oh I pain, I cry
Yet, I smile for these people.
Where to begin?
A ripple in that filthy water
But to start somewhere
And not perpetuate the problems
To show light for the future
Yes –capable people. But how?
I dream for you Bangladeshis
I dream that you may have dreams.
I dream that you are fed,
I dream that you may be able to read, write, think, discuss.
I dream that you have a future with tools to dream that future.
Not someone else’s dream.
Not with someone’s paternalistic shaping of selfish goals or ideas.
But your own dreams.
I dream that you may dream
In sleep not infested with
Insect bites, hunger, malnutrition
Loneliness, fear, abuse.
Dream that you may dream
While asleep and while awake.
Each of you and all of you.
You are God’s creation
I realized as I experienced this poem again all these years later that I had learned this important lesson all those years ago. When I worked alongside nuns to deliver aid to Bangladeshis I was humbled by the generosity of spirit of these beautiful, humble people in the face of their own great suffering. Those life lessons and observations helped prepare me for my role as a physician.
As I read my poem again this week I realized that my work and my challenge is the very same one today. I am still able to inhabit the role of sacred witness to things both bigger than myself and out of my control every day in my work as a physician.
I am thankful for the times I think I have the answers and for the times when I realize I don’t.
I am thankful that we all can dream.
© 2018, Lake Travis Integrative Medicine
Dear Dr. Julie,
Thank you so very much for your beautiful, inspirational words. They were heart-felt and greatly appreciated. I love your’ kind spirit and your dedication. As patients, we are blessed to have you!!!! Hope you and your family are having a lovely Thanksgiving.
I’ve passed on your lovely comments to Dr. Reardon. She loved hearing from you!