Running for the Finish Line

I feel like I’m always writing about how crazy life is right now. I think it’s because everyone’s lives are crazy right now, for a different mix of very good reasons.

I’ve been physically caught up in our hospital’s COVID-19 surge planning, literally, as our primary care clinic is being converted to a respiratory illness urgent care with virus testing and radiology capacity on-site, and we are moving to a new and much smaller space, far far away. So I’ve been packing up the kind of office belongings you accumulate over twelve years in practice: Shelves of books, sheaths of papers, framed degrees, that drawer full of toiletries…

Bit by bit, I’ve slogged all my stuff from the main hospital campus over to the staff parking lot (three-quarters of a mile, to be exact). One evening as I approached a stairwell door, struggling to balance a large framed diploma, a tote full of books and my backpack bursting, a security guard noticed me. He jogged over and, pulling the door open for me, remarked:

“Wow, that looks like an important document!” It was my master’s in public health, arguably the least important in career terms, but certainly the largest, and honestly the one that holds the best lessons for us in the era of this virus.

I made some joke about how it was just fancy paper, really. I wondered if he thought I was being fired, or had quit or something. After all, I was basically walking through the medical center with the equivalent of a sad box and a houseplant. I felt obligated to add:

“Yeah, our office is relocating. To Merrimac street. Covid surge prep, you know.”

He kind of nodded like, Whatever.

Sigh. In between all of that, my clinical work, my public health passion project, medical student teaching, and election obsession, I’ve been studying. Cramming, really. I was originally scheduled to sit for the Lifestyle Medicine Board Exam in-person in Florida last October, but my dad landed in the hospital just days beforehand and I deferred. I was then supposed to take the exam in-person in Boston in June, but it was cancelled due to COVID-19. The exam was re-invented as 100% online, and administered this past weekend. I studied as I always do: I printed out hundreds of practice questions, and did them. The fun part: I let my daughter correct me! She found the reddest Sharpie and took great pleasure in marking up my multiple choice responses:

That was the best part of the whole process, and we even discussed some of the questions, like “What whole plant food from the list below is the best source all the nutrients associated with improved blood pressure control?” and I’m pretty sure the answer was sweet potato… I planned to cram all day Saturday and take the test on Sunday. But then, the election results came in!

I admittedly took a break Saturday night to celebrate, albeit briefly. I had to get up and pass this exam on Sunday morning! The test itself was taken on the honor system, though if one were not to have studied and needed to look up all the answers, one would have not finished in time, that’s for sure. The honor system was really the only way. So I locked myself in my office for four hours Sunday morning and *I really hope* I passed the test!

I celebrated with a run:

We did properly celebrate the election on Sunday afternoon, with an outdoors, socially distanced/ masked family barbecue, and plenty of Champagne. This week, it’s back to work, and all that entails. Our COVID-19 numbers are ticking up, as they are all over the country. Yes, there’s been news of some successful vaccine trial results, but that is dampened by the reality of how long safety and efficacy trials really take, plus how long manufacturing and distribution to a large enough proportion of the population will really take… We’re in this for a long while yet, for sure.

Meantime, there’s so much going on day-to-day. Patient care still comes first, then there’s the teaching, the passion project, my family, and me, my self-care. I’m cramming it all in… writing too, and politics are always a distraction. I feel like if I can run fast enough and hard enough, there’ll be a finish line somewhere. And then I’ll be able to catch my breath, relax, and enjoy life. Someday!

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