In my younger days, I was a veritable whirlwind of activity. "The busier, the better!" was my personal little motto. I did feel as though the more that I had to do, the more that I could get done. In high school I juggled studying, cheerleading (yes, I was a cheerleader, hush), multiple extracurricular clubs, honor classes, a 20 hour a week job, and a steady boyfriend with relative ease. Every minute was scheduled to the hilt. Every weekend was planned in advance. I buzzed from one activity to another like a frenetic hummingbird, and honestly, thrived on the pressure of keeping it all going. Granted, all of my activities were very self-centered. I did what made me happy. I didn't have to worry about cooking or doing a lot of chores or taking care of anyone else but myself. The money I earned went for fun stuff, gas for the car, and clothes. I did get to sleep all night every night, and exercised very regularly and would periodically skip lunch to keep my (I imagined) plump 112 pound figure in check.
In college, it was more of the same; harder classes in a biology major, more studying, way more partying, leadership positions in extracurricular activities and my sorority (again, hush), the (required) volunteer work and physician shadowing in preparation for applying to medical school, and a long distance relationship. I bemoaned the woe of having 8 am classes, keeping me only able to go out 4 times a week instead of 6. When I found I had gained the dreaded "freshman fifteen," I dutifully trudged to the gym every afternoon after my 3 pm class, and found the will power to decline dessert with my meals. I lived in the sorority house where meals were cooked three times a day during the week, there was a housekeeper, and my idea of shopping was sneaking in a box (yes, I said box) of contraband wine to hide under the bed and drink with my roommate on the balcony. "A body in motion tends to stay in motion!" I would chirp, and be on my merry little way, padding my resume for medical school applications.
In medical school, things got a lot harder. The classes weren't easy any more. I actually had to go and study, a lot more than I ever had. I was living on my own for the first time in a really big city. I doing all of the chores, laundry, cooking for myself (lots of ramens, rice, and pasta), shopping for myself, and really starting to live like a responsible adult. All of the sudden, all of the extra stuff just wasn't so appealing. I dodged requests to join the AMA, and AMSA, and more volunteer work, and med school committees. I was too busy! I joined the note service for the benefit of not having to take notes during class, but dreaded my transcriptions. It was all I could do to keep my clothes clean, my brain plugged in, and my fledgling relationship thriving. I still made an effort to get to the gym, but the nearest one was a 30-45 minute drive in traffic both ways. This coupled with the pasta, after exam parties, and late night study snacking packed on about 20 pounds. In the last year of medical school, I planned a wedding, got married, interviewed for residency, matched, moved across the country, and bought a house. All of the sudden, I didn't feel like I could do it all.
Then came residency, the mother ship of having no healthy life at all. No sleep, terrible eating habits, 120 hour work weeks, and the *pressure* of being a neophyte physician. Hobbies outside of surviving residency? Surely you jest! It was all I could do to stay awake long enough to speak briefly with my new husband, eat a piece of pizza (cooking just didn't happen any more), and maybe occasionally bathe. Fortunately for me, the 80 hour work week was passed 2 years into residency. I celebrated my new found "time off" by getting pregnant...immediately. Then it was triple the laundry, triple the chores, and triple the responsibility. I began to lose who I was, other than doctor, mother, and wife. I stopped taking care of myself, in order to get everything else done. I was constantly in motion, and constantly wishing to rest. During this time an additional 50 pounds of weight crept on gradually, then not so gradually.
So here I am now, still working ridiculous hours. Still eating like I did when I was in medical school and residency. Still not quite keeping up with the chores. The focus of my life has completely shifted from myself to everyone else *but* me! I stop to look around, and I realize that with as much motion as I have experienced in my life, I have been standing still for years. During a recent interview, someone asked me what I did for "fun" when I wasn't working, and I couldn't come up with a good answer! Um, reading? Blogging? Trying not to pass out whilst my children crawl all over me in the evenings after work? I was shocked to realize that I am not really living, I am merely surviving. In all of my constant motion, that once started out so self-centered, I have lost contact with what exactly it is that I would *want* to do, should I have the time.
I want to cultivate in my children a love of something that makes them uniquely them, be it sports or music or dance or chess or reading. I realize that it is my responsibility to be an example for them, and I don't want my legacy to be only a strong work ethic and keeping very slightly ahead of chaos. I want my children to live in motion, like I got to do, once upon a time. I now realize that to help them live in motion, I've got to find a way to get some rest.
How do you take care of you, and still take care of your families and patients? I welcome your advice.