Don’t fear the reaper

Once again, I can’t sleep – asleep for 3 hours and now wide awake. This time, I’m in a hotel room. My alarm is set to go off in less than 2 hours.

If you thought you were going to die, would you know who or what really mattered to you most? Do you know what all you would say if you had to say goodbye, given an opportunity to do so? Are there loose ends you would want/need to wrap up? Would you start to do things differently, if it turned out to be a “false alarm”? Are there chances you would take that you otherwise wouldn’t, even if you thought they might be a mistake and lead to heartbreak or someone else’s pain?

I had a moment where I thought there was a chance I could die. A couple of days ago, I woke up in the early morning hours with severe radiating chest pain, and I was alone. (However, I realized those were my only symptoms and deduced that I was likely going to be ok and after a couple of hours got a second opinion from a friend.*) But my point is that I had about a half an hour where I thought about the above questions. (in addition to whether I really needed to go to the ER.) I couldn’t answer them. Thinking about it now, for the most part, I still can’t. What I do know for sure is actually kind of sad:

I’m afraid of disappointing the people who matter the most to me – even after death.

THAT IS MY ONLY FEAR REGARDING DEATH. My loved ones will go through my shit, and they will end up thinking less of me for one reason or another. That is what immediately went through my head, when I thought I might die.

How fucking pathetic is that?

*I did end up going to the ER later and getting a thorough cardiac examination.

 

Enjoy the flashback to 1992 and the movie Boomerang. (I loved this song. Still do, so much that it’s on a playlist.)

 

Words = Power

Words can be used to destroy you. When putting them down in a way that can be archived and used later against you, you take a risk. When you put them on the Internet, they are there for the taking, for anyone, anywhere. They exist forever. They are discoverable from a legal perspective, so professionally, you have so much to lose. Personally, people can find out that you have not trusted them, that you have been keeping them at a distance, when they may have trusted you. Some don’t take well to that, and you don’t know who those people are until it it is too late. I learned that long time ago. Maybe I’m a slow learner.

My words are here in this blog, and I take the risk. I have taken a risk by verbalizing some thoughts that otherwise I wouldn’t have to people who think that I trust them implicitly. I have taken precautions, but I have also taken some big risks. I risk both my personal and professional life. Even if I don’t take the kinds of risks outlined above, I do still worry about other risks, even if I shouldn’t.

Vulnerability is defined as:

the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.

Interestingly, one of the definitions of “love” via the Urban Dictionary is “giving someone the power to destroy you, and trusting them not to.” I think that is a more apt definition of “vulnerability,” but whatever. I have given very few that power, but still that power exists. I realize that every day I am more willing to become more exposed and to give that power away.

Shocking, I know. Imagine how I feel.

-S

*I know, you should see some of the entries. I should have gone to Wikipedia. hahahaha.

 

Chemistry Fundamentals

Having not slept well and been driven to distraction all morning because of it, I have been doing the mindless work of re-creating a presentation, then I decided to take the afternoon off. This gave me the opportunity to think about connections between people. How and why do we instantly connect with some people? I mean the kind of connection that leads to going beyond the superficial everyday stuff and really getting to know each other. What’s more interesting to me is why it is that some people make friendship seem so much more effortless than others. Why do we seem to have chemistry with some but not others? (I’m talking the kind of chemistry that really matters for the long run, not physical.)

I don’t think I make it effortless. I can be very superficial in my friendships, just like everyone else. I can be what my mother always said was, in reality, just a good acquaintance. I mean really, we use the word “friend” like we use the word “love,” very freely. I think I have established, by now, if you have been following along, that I keep people at a distance. Because I’m not much of a talker, I tend to engage with people who will talk, so I don’t have to. (I particularly like these people at social gatherings and networking events.) I don’t mind meeting new people, and I have a lot of “friends,” a very eclectic group. But people I consider real friends, my inner circle, are very few. Funny thing is that of the extremely small number that I count in this group, with one exception, C, they don’t know each other. She knows all but one, W. The rest don’t know each other.

This group of people, who are currently in my life, who really know me and of whom I really know, number 4. I may be wrong, but I still know 3 of these people, better than they know me. W, who at this point knows more of the depth of who I am, is the one who has known me for the least amount of time. (I’m not comfortable letting any of the others read this blog.)

When I look at these relationships individually, I don’t really see any common themes. One, V,  is a friend from childhood, so time is a big variable – 35 years. We were eight when we became friends. Two friends, well, it might be a stretch, but if you count that one is a former colleague, D, from years ago, and W is a current colleague, there is the initial catalyst of work. There’s a commonality. But where D was slow to become the person of importance she is to me today, I can’t say that about W. There was a kind of chemistry with her, when we actually had a chance to spend time alone. (We had briefly been around each other before, but always in the presence of others. I do think I know why it took being alone for it to happen.) Once it was just the two of us, we just seemed to “click.” It took me by surprise, and maybe freaked me out a little. That has never happened to me before. Not like that. How does that happen? The last person is C. We also clicked, but that’s different. One would hope anyhow.

I understand how over time a friendship can deepen, like with D, but when there is that spark of friendship, what is that like and what is it for you? I guess the question is “why”? Can you pinpoint what it is about that other person, what it is that draws you in? What do you do if you begin to sense resistance? According to what I’ve read, it isn’t always mutual, for one reason or another –  like trust issues. What keeps you there, if you don’t give up? Lord knows, I’m not an easy nut to crack, but I know it wouldn’t be fair for me to have a billion questions floating around in my head that I want to ask, because I want to genuinely get to really know someone, if I wasn’t willing to answer whatever was thrown my way.

No, I’m no longer having issues with this topic with regard to W. I think I’m more fascinated by it than anything, most likely by its rarity and current inexplicability.

Obviously, I don’t like things I can’t understand, so I even Googled this topic hoping the social or hard sciences could give me an explanation. The science reports that it is the effect of my amygdala and posterior cingulate cortex dealing with emotion and assigning value to make my decisions based upon passed experiences. According to the Campbell’s article below, aside from science, destiny or something spiritual may even be at play. Interesting.

It explains why I haven’t experienced this before, but not why I did this time. Maybe that’s Campbell’s destiny. I normally don’t believe in the “everything happens for a reason,” but maybe this one time, I will.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/more-chemistry/201108/relationship-chemistry-can-science-explain-instant-connections

-S

There are no self-help books for this one

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I am wondering if the algorithm for this stupid Facebook quiz was that good at looking at my profile, or if this was just a coincidence.

It’s funny (strange not haha) that this quiz and result came up the day after a friend, who is a well-respected senior director in another department and has also known my new boss for years, gave me some pointers for working with him. One of them was with regard to my tone and sarcasm. (She’s been on the receiving end of my tone, which I never realized until she told me.) Remain aware.

I try to continually monitor myself, with regard to how I may sound to others. I have been told on numerous occasions that I can have a condescending tone. I also have a propensity to respond with sarcasm. I do not always realize when my tone is perceived as condescending, but usually, I do know when I am giving a sarcastic response. Most people who know me know that what is perceived as my condescending (“you dumbass”) tone doesn’t really mean that I think they are stupid, it just sounds that way.* It’s the ones who don’t know me that I worry about. Hence the need to self-correct. Besides, I don’t want people to think I’m an bitch, unless I give them a legitimate reason to do so.

The sarcasm, well, that is generally because I think someone has said something I find ridiculous. If someone says or does something that I think is ill-informed, for lack of a better word, and it is something that I genuinely care a lot about, I can sound irritated or even angry. (Otherwise, I don’t show much emotion about stuff.)  I really have a problem with what I perceive as stupidity, willfull ignorance, etc. I need to exert the same control in this area that I do in others. Maybe I should try counting or something. It is normally a knee-jerk reaction to something.

I work on this daily. However, my success rate is less than stellar. I will continue my little self-improvement project. Luckily, it hasn’t gotten me into any trouble. Yet.

I’m probably pressing my luck.

 

* I have been told my non-verbals convey the same. I swear I don’t know when I’m doing it, because I do it to people I obviously do not think are stupid. I ask for feedback all the time, so people can let me know when it happens. Of course by then, it’s too late. 😦

Checkmate

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When I was on the national competitive debate and public speaking circuit in college, I had a playlist that I would listen to before rounds. Yup, just like athletes do. In fact, it was the same playlist that I used when I would climb or workout. There is a reason athletes listen to music before games. It pumps you up. If you need a confidence boost, it gives you one. If you just need to reinforce the fact that you are going to kick ass, it does that too.

I still have several playlists like that. The beauty of climbing is that it is both mentally and physically challenging – best of both worlds for me. When I climb and there is a route with a problem that I that I can’t get past, that becomes “my nemesis.”  I’ll start listening to the playlist when I climb. In my professional life, if I have an interview or a meeting, where I know there exists the potential for challenges or conflicts, I’ll listen to one before that. I’ve got a meeting with the “new boss” on Thursday. You probably have an idea of what I’ll be listening to that day.

So for once, I don’t need better living through chemistry by pharmaceuticals, because regardless of which muscle is being flexed, music is my performance-enhancing drug of choice. Regardless of what it is, I play to win.* If I don’t, I take note, and I adjust for the next time we meet. Interestingly, that might mean adjusting my playlist as well.

 

*As a professional, now a win is generally a win-win, since most things in life are not a zero sum game.

 

I love this video. The kid is amazing.

(SOOOO many of these Sia wigs at her concert.)

Just call me the chosen one, my parents did.

I was adopted when I was 14 months old. I was in an orphanage for over a year. (Ah, abandonment, the gift that keeps on giving.) From the time I was small I was told that I was special because I was chosen. What I wasn’t told was that kids would be mean, or that I wasn’t White like all of the other kids in school. I got my ass kicked in first grade by a third grader who thought he would test what turned out to be my woefully absent karate skills. I wasn’t told that people would ask me who my “real parents” were or if I would ever go back to where I came from. Worse yet, they never told me that as I got older there would be people who would tell me to “go back to where I came from.” I wasn’t prepared to feel so out of place. I never felt like I fit in, with anyone anywhere. This is a theme that would play out throughout my life – feelings of isolation, abandonment issues where I sabotage relationships, and just general anger. Awesome. At least I hide it well. 🙂

I have a younger sister who is also adopted, and we are not biologically related. She is also Korean. I am always amused when people comment that we look alike. She is built with a much bigger frame than mine, and outweighs me by at least 70 pounds. I always want to say, “You’re saying that because we are both Asian, you stupid fuck,” but of course, I don’t. We look nothing alike, other than, we are both Korean females.

We never really talked about the adoption in our home, with the exception of the “you’re special because you were chosen” stuff. No talk about who our biological parents were or anything like that. We used to get newsletters from the adoption agency, and my grandmother used to tell the story of when they picked me up from the airport. (She knew exactly which baby was hers. I liked that story. She adored me.) But otherwise, there really wasn’t much.

When I was in my 20s, I started having health issues, really weird shit. I was losing my hair, having night sweats, and I didn’t have any family health history. I asked my mother if there was any information anywhere that they could give me. She said no. She wished they could tell me something, but she said that I was pretty much dumped off the side of the road. Well, let me tell ya, that was probably one of the worst things she could have said, because, if I wasn’t already an angry individual, that didn’t help matters any.

If you have read any of my other posts, you already know, I have some anger issues. While I contain and redirect them, I still have them. Only now, I have this idea that my birth mother has just dumped me off the side of the road. I received this information during a period where I had coworkers who were pregnant and talking about how wonderful it was to be pregnant and the feeling of baby bonding, and I’m wondering how I could have been dumped off at a roadside. Was she a prostitute?? What the fuck? Was I abandoned because girls weren’t worth shit in Asian countries? I ended up in an orphanage for over a year, left to chance,  for what reason??? If this bond between a mother and a baby is so special, then how the fuck can someone do that?? Whoever she was, I hated her. The anger that I carried over this was so great that it probably wasn’t helping the health issues.

I didn’t talk to anyone about this. I did ask my sister if she was ever curious about the circumstances surrounding our adoptions. She said no. She wasn’t curious about any of it.

Rather randomly, a few years later, I watched The Joy Luck Club. There is a scene in the movie/book where Suyuan places her babies at the roadside, and I realized that there are other reasons that I may not have understood that may have led to my placement for adoption. While there is no way I could have known, my anger may have been misguided and misplaced. Several years after my mother passed away, I was talking to my father about possibly going to Korea to try to find biological relatives for health record purposes. He informed me that I was actually placed for adoption because the family was a farming family that already had too many children, and they knew they could not provide for another one. They wanted to give me a better chance. I told him what Mother had said. He didn’t know why she had said that; I don’t either. Maybe she had her own kind of abandonment issues too.

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I always wanted to look like Waverly, the one in the middle, but I’m not Chinese.

Step 1

As usual, when something of significance happens and I am caught off guard and get upset, I just need to get it out of my system. I will then formulate a strategy to deal with the issue. Once I have a plan, if it’s an option, I take my time to execute it. This is what happened with the military and with law school. The anger becomes a firm resolve. 

This is where I am now. 

Tell me, what the fuck ARE your values?

A few years ago, I was selected from the employees across our health system to be part of a committee that would create the new Values for our organization. (This was a shocker to me, because I’m a pretty outspoken person about the organizational things that I don’t agree with.) Not only were we creating the new Values, but we were creating the behaviors that would exemplify them. This was a big campaign. I was really proud to be a part of it. We presented it to the Executive Leadership, but the real test was the buy in of the front line staff. I think that’s probably one reason why I was chosen. If staff saw I was on board, then there must have been something to it. After all, I’m pretty critical of things and very direct. I don’t take things at face value, and people know that.

Our organization had gone through a lot of changes. It had gone from a community hospital to one of the largest health systems of our specialty in the nation, a Level I trauma center, in a little over a decade. But with the changes in US healthcare, came the need for our specialty to make significant changes from previous practices. In the face of these changes, my organization ended up significantly reducing staff several years ago. This impacted morale considerably. It didn’t help that the current CEO of the health system was not seen as the friendly “dad’ type that the previous CEO of the community hospital version of the organization was. Trust became an issue for many of the people who had been there for years.

Anyhow, the organization continued to grow and became increasingly top heavy (40 VPs). For a while, I saw where some of the upper management might have made sense, and I tried to explain the business rationale to my clinical co-workers why more VPs were brought in, even though their co-workers were let go. But after so many, it’s hard to justify. About three years ago, we were told we needed to cut a couple hundred million dollars, but that we were otherwise fine. (WTF?) Now, very recently we found out that the system has not been doing well over the past couple of years for reasons related to the changes in healthcare.

I have been dissatisfied with work for the past year or so, because I felt that the organization had not been as supportive of my program as they should be, there was a lack of understanding and unwillingness to take the time to try to understand it. They used it when necessary, when they needed something shiny and high tech to show off, rather than understanding that it could be a way to enhance cost reduction through quality and patient safety. I was also beginning to feel that they didn’t sincerely hold the values that I had helped create.

Today, about 1% of our organization, was let go. This included my boss, S.. I now answer to a man who has little understanding of what I do. He is also someone who I feel lacks integrity, who will do what he feels necessary to advance his career at the expense of others or to dodge responsibility. In a meeting with a VP, he had stated I never gave him information with regard to whether my program could accommodate a program of his. I responded that, actually, I had told him that we did have that conversation, and I had told him I could accommodate the nurses. I then turned to the nurse beside me to verify that this conversation did indeed take place, because she was there too. She did. (Slimy fucker. Him, not her.) I knew he pulled this kind of shit, and I wasn’t going to let him do it to me. I was also going to let everyone else know he did it, and that I don’t tolerate it. So fuck meeting/coaching etiquette; I wasn’t going to allow that.

I have been thinking about moving on for a few months. I know that after working at two large Level I trauma centers, affiliated with universities, I can’t go back to a community hospital setting. My boss, S, had told me that the only “negative” she received in the reference calls from Hopkins was that I can’t be allowed to get bored, because that is when I will move on. I’m afraid that a community hospital will not challenge me enough. I think I may have possible options with a couple of med schools that have new centers opening in 2018. But I would love for my current organization to just get its shit together. I love this particular specialty, and most of our population is uninsured, an otherwise under-served community. This matters to me.

I thought before that maybe I would end up leaving at some point in the next couple of years, but this seems to really hammer that home, making the need to move on more urgent. This whole thing saddens me, because I put so much of myself into this program. I took something with no structure and shaped it, grew it, added process improvement, increasing its utilization at least 25% every year. I was very happy here at one time; I believe in the mission and the values of the organization. But I don’t believe in staying where you aren’t happy, and I don’t know if I can regain my happiness.  I can’t afford to be in a place that might send me into a downward spiral. I guess we will see where I eventually land. I will keep hoping that they will get their shit together.*

And people say I’m not an optimist.
*Of course, there’s more going on than what I’ve mentioned here to further decrease employee morale. 

Impatience leads to grouchiness

Sometimes I let my impatience get the best of me. Tonight was one of those times. I want people to work the way I do. I know others can, so I expect it of everyone of whom I consider in the high intelligence category, like W. (So yes, I’ve made a generalization, a fallacy, I know. And the ones of whom I’m having these expectations are very intelligent.) But for fuck sake, it doesn’t happen. Communication, which is the cheapest fix to almost any problem, is the most difficult to implement, for a variety of reasons. The most likely being we each come from our own frames or experiences. Fixes are slow. Human nature slows down processes. I should know better. I have undergraduate AND graduate degrees in this shit. Maybe I’m not too bright. 

So I need to take a step back, a big deep breath, maybe a Xanax (J/K on that one), and give it a little more time.

(Shifting focus)

And say I’m sorry. You were being supportive, and I was being negative. Even if you don’t think I was an asshole, I feel like I was. I may not love trash, but I do love you. 😊

– S

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