You get up early to go into work. It’s dark and perhaps subzero. Your steering wheel is too cold to grasp and you left your gloves in the car last night so they’re no help, frozen and unyielding.
You commute in silence, maybe the only moment of silence you’ll experience all day.
You grab your caffeine-of-choice and step into the glaring fluorescent world of the hospital. You intend to ease in, nearly unnoticed, but it never seems to work that way.
You’re stopped in the hallway by the resident taking care of baby Smith. She asks you what the plan is for initiating PO feeding, and by the way, have you completed the eval for baby Jones because his mom is waiting to hear what you think of his development. You convey, blink, nod, confirm.
You check the computer to find your list of 30 patients. You notice a semi-legible note stuck to the screen stating there’s a department meeting at 11am (when Mrs. Smith planned to meet you for the first oral feeding). Another note on your desk indicates that you should attend medical rounds by 8:00 because there will be a team discussion on the best next steps for baby James.
Then the person in your unit who has no regard for social cues stops by to unload her latest drama as you’re trying to leave your office/cubicle to see your first patient. Hurry. This is intensive care after all. Anything with the word ‘intensive’ in the title begets a shift in speed.
And so it goes.
This is the energy of hospital work – the best part of which is the intentional and skillful care of babies and families amid the organized chaos.
Why the recap?
Because it’s so easy to allow the frantic energy of the intensive care unit to flow into the rest of your life. And if I’ve learned anything about this group, you want more than professional skill, knowledge, and experience. You want the whole enchilada. You want to love your whole life.
So here’s one tiny place to start. One simple question that may help you manage some of that energy.
“What is it like to be on the receiving end of you?”
What’s it like to talk to you at the end of a day like this? What is it like to share a patient caseload with you? What’s it like to be led by you? What is it like to be a NICU parent who meets you for the first time? What is it like to be one of your children asking 100 questions after school while you’re trying to throw something together for dinner before basketball practice?
The question, when first posed to me, floored me. Hmmm. Wow.
At first, I felt guilty. I thought of all the times (years?) when having young kids, working at the hospital and consulting/traveling left me exhausted. Was I really listening to anyone? Was I even pleasant? Ugh.
I’ve learned that this isn’t a question for the faint of heart. It’s for those brave enough to be vulnerable and self-aware. Only ask it if you’re prepared to take a hard look at how you enter a bedspace, a meeting, a party, a relationship.
The cool thing is this is not about better-behavior-through-guilt. And it’s not about being nice. It’s simply about deciding what kind of life you want and how you want to show up in it. If you’re anything like me, you have to re-decide that 50 times a day because presence is a practice.
Kind, clear, present, generous, reliable, positive, trustworthy…what are the words you hope others will use to describe their experience of you? We can’t control other people, but we can choose how we show up.
Hit the reset button and start over.
It’s worth it. They’re worth it. Your life is worth it.