More Free Time
What would I do if I had more time? I have asked myself that lately. Partly because, as I try to work less hours, I find that I need to fill that time with something, or else I will end up finding more work. I really do love my work, whether I am working with trainees mentoring others, researching, planning programs, or seeing patients. Well, I should say that I am mostly energized by my work, until I get burned out. That happened in the middle of last month, I was just so emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted that I couldn’t take anymore. There were some days that Greg and I just basically stared at each other in the evening, not wanting to do or say much at all.
But the overwork (mostly having to do with trying to submit 6 papers for the American Journal of Public Health, and all the logistics which came from involving six trainees and faculty from 5 other institutions) and subsequent exhaustion gave me a strong reason to work less for a couple weeks. It was an interesting time – even at patients there were less clinic visits scheduled, so I had more flexible time, and the result was interesting.
I found, as much as I liked work, when I worked less, I had more energy for people, and more ability to show love to others and to live life with joy and peace. We had visitors staying with us, and when I was able to let go of perfectionistic hosting expectations, I was able to truly enjoy them while still finding time for quiet reflection for myself. One day I didn’t have patients booked all afternoon, so I didn’t go to clinic in the afternoon, and instead I spent a morning at a café with one of my patients. It was my first time seeing her outside the clinic, and the day marked a transition in our relationship from doctor/patient to mentor/mentee, and I think that will be a nice change in the future. There was another afternoon when only one patient was booked – a 19 year old student already burned out and questioning what was next in life. It had been a year since his last appointment, and he had written out over a dozen things he wanted to talk about as he thought through his future options and his concerns, his anxieties and his hopes. I could feel the clinic visit going longer and longer, and in the end, I spent as long in clinic as if I had seen four or five patients, but I felt like I was able to give him attention and care and I pray that he will have some more confidence and resources moving forward.
I did read eleven books in the last month, I can’t say that I enjoyed all of them, but I was happy to finish 100 books in the last year. I also finished reading through the apocrypha and most of the Bible. I’m looking forward to going through some books a few more times before my trip to Israel with my church in December. It has been fun thinking about that and planning that out.
I am learning to listen to my body more, running and walking less and stretching more. My back pain is going down and I’m sleeping more. I am lighting more candles. I am not taking as many baths or naps, but I wonder if that is because I’m going to bed early and waking up feeling rested. I got to talk to a few of my favorite people on the phone, and took time for meals or walks with others. In previous months, when I was working more, I would just want to hide from people.
Even though I took a long weekend and traveled with Greg twice this month, I have been productive. My teams have submitted 3 proposals for discussion at the American College of Preventive Medicine, we helped a student with submissions to another 2 conferences and fine-tuning posters for two others, and I did help a friend with an online talk to a big group on Sunday. I think maybe I’m just someone who will either have to achieve at resting, or I’ll find something else to achieve at. But I am learning a lot these days, learning about myself, learning what drives me, and learning how I am different when I have space and time compared to when I am pushing for one thing after another.