Monday, January 7, 2008

Reentry-Burn Anxiety

"I don't miss work at all," I said to my husband a few hours ago, a little guiltily.

"I don't either, but I don't see why you feel so wrong about it. No one misses work."

"Sure they do. The passionate, dedicated people do. Don't they?"

"Even people who 'can't live without it' need to recharge their batteries once in a while. Stop feeling so guilty."

*Sigh*. I've barely given my job a moment's thought during this whole vacation, and when thoughts of it do float to the surface I quickly swirl them away again.

My profession and I are like a couple that's been through tough times. I do feel I have a certain dedication to medicine and to patients, because I care so deeply about taking care of people well, but am I madly in love with the work itself? After all the hurts and stresses, the rocky periods? (Though of course, my husband and I have had our share of rough times, yet some of our friends still tell us the world still seems to disappear around us when we look at each other. Go figure.)

I think few doctors keep the full ardor of the initial passion that might have drawn them to medicine. I think most of us are lucky if the warmth of a steady ember remains. I believe I have that, at least. But when I read passages like this beautiful one from pastry chef Shuna Fish Lydon, I think to myself: Now there's someone who's truly, madly, deeply in love with the work she does for a living. And I have to admit, while I get tremendous pleasure out of snapping a laryngoscope blade into place and executing a good intubation, and it was the actual physical pleasure of ventilating someone by mask that made me realize anesthesiology was for me, I don't think I have the fire she has, the kind of "attachment to the process" that makes her mouth water just thinking about it:

The Pastry Chef asked me how did I know it was pastry that I wanted and was meant to do. The question stopped me cold. I closed my eyes and reached deep.

How? Why? Why sweet things over salty ones? And how did I know? Really know?

Before cooking professionally I was at CCAC majoring in photography. In the darkroom, not at all a delicious place: surrounded by awful chemicals and worse fumes, I watched images wash to the surface from enlarger to developer to stop bath. In those black rooms, developing film or paper, my mouth watered and often my eyes did as well. I was attached to the process, to those images I was capturing.

I am the same when working with butter and sugar and eggs. It's a similar science, yes, but more than that it's an emotional experience for me. Although I started on the line, cooking savory food, it was with pastry that I found that spot, that place, where my heart met the process and my hands and heart follow suit.

And it's not as if work is all pleasure for her, either. With so many family members in the food business, I know at least second-hand that it's a tough taskmaster, requiring some strong mettle and tenacity as well as talent and creativity. Long hours, thankless labor, attention to detail, indefatigable service - I've often thought there were many similarities between being a physician and being a chef or restaurateur, and envied chefs their opportunity to see and enjoy a tangible product, the work of their minds and hands.

Do I like my work? Sure. Am I doing what I love? Within medicine, certainly. But am I looking forward to my first day back? Not so much...

I guess that's pretty normal, as my husband said.

(Photo: "emergency drug kit" brought to me by a friendly O.R. nurse)


I've been pretty silent about my oboe this trip, but she's here with me, and we have been bonding. It's amazing how fast reeds will dry up and need re-soaking in this tropical weather, though! I haven't been practicing every day, but I've tried to practice every other day, mostly with success, and I'm happy to say I've also tried to make sure not to neglect my scales, arpeggios, and left F here.

I don't know if it's the acoustics or high ceiling in my parents' living room or what, but I've actually been hearing the "oboe-ish" sound more in some of the things I play, whereas before this I was mostly relying on Kyoko to tell me if I sounded like an oboe or not (and not really hearing the difference when she said I was "right on" for the tone).

How do Filipino oboists deal with the reed-drying thing, I wonder?

1 comment: said...

I sometimes think, after taking time off, "I can live without the stress and anxiety. I could easily give up oboe." It's only when I get back to it that I remember the joys that it brings.

Someday, though, I suspect I'll say, "This is it. I'm done. Finé." And I think I'll be fine with it.

When I first skipped out on oboing for a while and enjoyed it, I felt very guilty. Now I just enjoy myself and realize that I'll be fine ... I'll get back into it ... I'l enjoy it (and freak out and have anxiety attacks and whine!) just fine. ;-)