Despite the oft repeated idea that healthcare is recession-proof, many of the physicians I’ve spoken to in recent months have reported drops in patient attendance, a fall-off in clientele in their businesses, and declining incomes. Politics and reimbursements aside, it’s apparent that even an essential like medical care has taken a hit in the recession.
This drying up of the pipeline (sorry – maybe an oil metaphor is a poor choice now; I’m thinking of it more as a water pipeline!) is scary as there is no end in sight. It introduces uncertainty, which we tolerate poorly.
My trip to Africa sparked once again my awareness that, as bad as we think we have it, there are those for whom a dry bed in a rain storm because the corrugated iron roof isn’t leaking is a blessing. And a discarded pair of still-clean but slightly worn running shoes is a veritable luxury.
I returned to the US, fortified by these five truths that remind me that, barring any personal or family tragedy, I am going to be okay.
- Your happiness is directly proportional to your resilience.Earlier, I mentioned the pioneering spirit I re-encountered in South Africa, and even more so in Zimbabwe. It is almost inconceivable that I still have very dear friends living in a country that has been so trashed by its leadership that it is almost unrecognizable. And yet there they are, willing to share a laugh over a beer around a fire in the evening, making shopping lists for the next trip into town, and coping with ticks, malaria and outrageous food prices! This is hardy stock.And I know that deep down inside, I am hardy stock too. Just as are you when it’s called for!
- Your skills and training will ALWAYS find use somewhere.Hate your practice because of whiny patients or poor pay? Frantic to quit as you know you can’t do this forever, but terrified that you’ll never get something else going for you?What if I reassured you that you would never really fall on your face? Not with all that marvelous training and experience. Not if you were willing to shed some of the padding from your life and give yourself the fall-back option of practicing medicine in other countries where a) you would be ever so appreciated, b) the costs of living as translated into US dollars would be much lower and c) you could feel like you were making a huge difference.
Would you take the plunge and get something else going (even if it meant keeping your detested job for now)?
- Your needs are far simpler than you imagine.As soon as I get away from Los Angeles and into a less privileged area, I am struck by how much less I really need. I could sell three quarters of my wardrobe and still be fine. I could donate half of my kitchen ware and still produce a decent meal. My travels to Italy, France, China and Africa have shown me that people all over the world, living civilized and purposeful lives, manage with way less than I have.I know I could do it. What about you?
- Your fears are almost always fictitious.Srikumar Rao reminded us of this fact in our March teleclass – we invent most of our fears. Especially those that interfere with our sleep.Sure there is stuff to be scared of – bad guys, car accidents, unbearable losses. But unless they are happening to you right now, any thoughts about these and other dire situations are future speculations or past recollections.
Pain is awful when you have it, whether it is physical or psychological, and I would never want to gloss over that. However, most of our pain is self-created and originates in fear (or False Evidence Appearing Real).
Stop right now and check yourself for the signs and symptoms of present physical or emotional pain. If it’s there, nurture yourself and do what you must to take care of yourself. If you don’t discover any, then know that you are okay right now, despite your fear!
- Your “You” is inviolable.This is the biggest truth for me. This is the time I resort to my thoughts about those who made it through the Holocaust. No matter how degrading their circumstances, no matter how much brutality they faced, no matter the sheer horror of their day-to-day existence, survivors like Eli Wiesel failed to relinquish their “You” – their souls. This attitude represents the ultimate in courage.I believe I could show courage if I truly needed to. Bet you would too!
I offer you these personal reminders from my African escapade in the spirit of hope and faith that you too have answers. If your well is looking dry at present and you have a gnawing anxiety about the future, please pause for a moment and test yourself to discover your own truths.
Can you adapt to challenging circumstances if you have to?
Will you ultimately be okay, deep down inside?
And if you knew you would and could, what permission do you need to give yourself to tolerate the current drought or, better still, blaze new trails or undertake future adventures?