I Have All The Things I’m Supposed to Want. Is This Terrible Feeling Normal?

Well, holy shit I’m in a funk. The only thing that makes me happy is bread.

I really love bread. Do you know they put olives in it sometimes now!? (chef’s kiss)

It’s gray here in the midwest, because of course it’s gray. It’s gray for eight months of the year, and face-hurtingly cold. We’re allegedly moving somewhere not gray or face-accosting, but for the life of me I can’t make the move feel real yet. It seems way too good to be true. And, of course, most of the people we love are in this gray place, so my feet feel heavy whenever I start to walk away. PLUS, so many people I know now are sick. COVID hasn’t been corralled or prevented, so here we are, winters kissing together as this virus stretches out over a full year. Not everywhere. Some continents have cases in the single digits, but here we resolutely don’t give a shit about each other, and so we keep on passing illnesses.

Speaking of illness, there was initially a teeny bit of relief with the presidential election, but it was premature, as the mob boss in the White House has decided he can’t and won’t leave, and also unsatisfying, as it’s a cultural war we’re actually in, and it feels unlikely that swapping out leadership will really dent the towers of patriarchy and white supremacy. The war of who counts continues to rage; who gets to be fully liberated, protected, powerful, celebrated, American — and who has to fight for the crumbs. The winner of this war seems inevitable; white soggy skin bunched over a neck tie, that’s the neck that always has, and likely always will, turn the head of this house. So many stalwart stewards of these systems of oppression showed up for this election fighting against change, fighting for sameness, to maintain the narrow definition of American, of human, of success and worth.

The staggering distance between my understanding of how life works and how other people perceive it working leaves me feeling alone and confused.

All this week I straddled homeschooling and working at the hospital. It’s grimmer than usual there now. Staff who witnessed horrible things in the spring feel a sense of doom as the COVID case numbers creep back up. Many staff members are sick themselves, whole departments are shutting down because of it. And, in my department, the shadow of death hangs especially low, as we grieve my colleague who died recently (not COVID-related).

I’ve worked so hard this past year to find peace and identify what makes me feel most like me, and I have to say, working in surgery feels empty now. I feel like such a privileged asshole just saying that because IT PAYS GOOD MONEY and that SHOULD BE ENOUGH, RIGHT?! Not just that, but it SERVES OTHERS and THAT SHOULD BE ENOUGH, TOO, RIGHT?

In the O.R. world there’s this sense of urgency and importance, a bit of glamour, and it’s really alluring. It’s also waiting for the next disaster, managing the pain and fear of others and forever trying not to lose yourself in it or fall so far away that you lose your humanity. I’ve been doing it long enough that I don’t flinch anymore at things that deserve flinches. Stepping back for a bit, I can see it more clearly now.

We don’t process our feelings because they’re too big and too many and they get in the way of efficiency and being prepared for the next something awful rolling through the door…so, to comfort ourselves, we nuzzle with our money and spend it on big, beautiful houses and cars and new faces and boobs, and we drink to forget. We follow all the rules so that we don’t face failure or lawsuit or end up on the end of a branch looking down, unable to get back to the solid tree trunk. We are terrified all the time. We lose our creativity. Our passion. Our joy. We have only our ego and our wallets telling us that we’re succeeding. Society says we’re winning. We have that.

I don’t want that. (I just want bread)

I hope I’m unique in these feelings and that other people still burn for the art of surgery and love caring for people in this capacity. That for them it doesn’t feel like a golden trap you stepped into and now can’t shake off your leg.

Is it honorable to leave a career of helping and supporting my family? This is what I’ve been asking myself for the past few years. I still don’t have a good answer. If I trust that my body and mind know what’s best for me, than my decision to pursue parenting and writing over medicine is clear. But, man, I’m supposed to want all the things that I already have, so this whole not being satisfied, wanting a different version of life- again leaves me feeling alone and confused.

Alright. More later. This whole messy mess above is why I’m days behind on my goal to write daily during the mont of November. I hope to get back on track now. Thanks for reading, if you’ve made it this far. Now off to….eat bread. Obviously.

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