work life balance

Everything Happens For A Reason

Yesterday, Wednesday, was supposed to be a short, easy workday, just a morning teaching session at the medical school, observing students role-playing taking a sexual history. No finding inpatients to interview, no running around the hospital, no taking notes for meaningful feedback, and no checking in at the office. Heck, I could even wear JEANS.

I had a plan: I would go straight home afterwards, log into work for a bit, do some housework, and then take an hour or two of PERSONAL TIME before picking the kids up early from Nana’s.

But, woman makes plans, and God laughs…

Now, Hubby was away for the past two weekends, and I had the kids last Thursday, my day off, so it has been two weeks since I had even five minutes of personal time. That is, time where I was not held responsible for the well-being of others, be it at work or at home. Let’s face it, even if the kids are asleep, and I am awake, it’s not really personal time, because I’m still in charge. And, that rarely happens anyway, because they go to bed too late and I’m up really early, so I often fall asleep with them. I don’t count commuting time either, even though I’m usually checking social media on the train; It’s still part of my workday.

So I was dreaming of having a few hours in my house, by myself. I hear it from many other parents, too, how rare an occurrence that is, and how heavenly it is to be alone in the house. This is not because we’re going to strip naked and go dancing around, but because we can sit and turn the television to ANYTHING. Me, I was secretly planning to get a really good workout on the spinning bike with America’s Test Kitchen on the TV. Give me a good sweat and a practical cooking show, and I’m happy.

Of course, I felt guilty about this plan. I have alot of work to catch up on (the medical administrative crap is sort of endless), work that is much more effectively completed from my desk in our office. Plus, I have a complicated patient admitted right now, whose condition was in flux at that point. I normally would visit them, and on a Wednesday I might bring my students, too. But if I wasn’t at the hospital, I wouldn’t see her until Friday afternoon. I fretted about this.

Not enough to change my plan, though- The medical school is across town from my hospital and office, and there is no easy way to get to and from. So, I ditched any thought of visiting my sick patient.

So. After a highly entertaining medical interviewing class, I exited the school from a side door. I got a little disoriented, and walked in the opposite direction from the train station. I hadn’t been looking forward to the train ride, which by necessity requires me to take my least favorite line, and go out of my way to connect with the line that can take me home. So, finding myself that much farther away from getting home, I gave up and summoned an Uber.

I’ve only recently started using apps like Uber. Alright, I won’t lie, it’s the only one I’ve used, and like, twice. It still amazes me. I clicked and almost instantly, my phone rang. Pietro (not a real name) was parked half a block away. (There are a gazillion hospitals in the area, and hence, there are oodles of cabbies and Ubers.) I hopped in, and off we went.

I buried my face in my phone, checking emails, answering some, reading someone’s blog post, et cetera. I admittedly was not paying attention to where we were. At some point, I looked up, and we were downtown, literally a couple of blocks from my hospital.

Now, this was clearly way, way out of the way and in the wrong direction from my home. The guy had driven due North, into the city, when I live South, out of the city. I was totally perplexed, and kind of worried. I mean, you hear stories about rogue Uber drivers with bad intentions.

Um, where are we going? I asked, trying not to sound panicky. This is kind of out of the way…

Pietro seemed genuinely surprised; I think he’d been as spaced out as I was. He was using an app called Waze, that’s kind of like GPS, but with traffic and construction taken into account. It’s supposed to find the fastest way around to anywhere. He double checked that he had the correct destination, and then, kind of embarrassed, he admitted that it was weird to be up where we were. Neither of us could figure out how on earth this would work, as we would have to get on the expressway, which certainly is anything but express at midday. We would have to go through the tunnel, a long, exhaust-fume-filled dark stretch that usually gives me migraines.

I could see my hospital up ahead. The thought of sitting in an Uber on the expressway (and paying for it) made me queasy. So I asked Pietro to let me off. He did, very apologetic: So sorry, so sorry.

And me, I walked to my office. I donned my long white coat over my jeans, and went and saw my sick patient in the ICU. I’m glad that I did, as she had some questions. So much of the primary care’s job is just translation and communication… She was appreciative of my explanations, and very grateful for the visit.  Since then, only 24 hours, alot has happened to her, and I’m thankful that we spoke beforehand.

When I got back to my desk, there was an urgent message from a complex patient. I called them back; it was a long phone conversation. I felt much better about calling them from my desk phone, for many reasons. If I had been at home, I would have delegated the call to my nurse, or postponed until Friday… As it turns out, that may not have gone over very well. I’m lucky that I took the call myself yesterday.

I also spent a couple of hours doing work, and I know that I got alot more done there than I would have at home. But really, the reason it was key for me to be there, in the office and in the hospital yesterday, was for those two patient interactions. That’s just the way it needed to be.

I ended up taking my usual train line home, and picking up the kids from Nana’s at the usual evening hour. I did not have even five minutes of personal time.

But it’s okay, because, everything happens for a reason…

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