Sheltering at Home, What I Have Learned About Myself
We are now living in extraordinary times with life as we know it changing daily. We all appreciate that some of these changes will likely remain with us while others will be temporary and gone once we have made it through the pandemic. I like to believe that I can learn something every day and often note it to be an “accomplishment” for that day. Over the past week, we have seen all elective surgeries postponed now through May 8th and cancelled clinics through June 1. I am working from home and am thankful that my wife has allowed me to use her office on a short- term basis. We are grateful to have both of our adult children at home with us during this time of so many unknowns. I have been reflecting a bit over the last seven days about what I have learned while sheltering at home.
Here are 3 thoughts and revelations I have had this past week:
1) I miss seeing and caring for patients – I took the Hippocratic oath in May of 1989 and since that time have been caring for patients inside and outside of the operating room. Other than vacations and attending meetings, it has continued to be an important part of my life and who I am as a person for over 30 years. I saw my last patient over a week ago. We are now only seeing patients who have recently had surgery, so my clinic is closed. It is truly a privilege and honor to care for patients. I enjoy the technical aspect of surgery but treasure and value the relationships I have developed with my patients, many of whom have continued in my practice for many years. Thank you so much for allowing me to help you achieve your goals!
2) I cherish being at home with my family – My wife Suzanne and I have been empty nesters for several years. The kids leaving home was a significant change for us after nearly 20 years of living, growing, teaching and enjoying each other’s company. Matthew is 26 and now lives and works in Baltimore. Ashley, 25, lives, works and goes to school in Dallas. While my wife and I have enjoyed “dating” again, focusing on the two of us, it has been so nice to eat 3 meals a day as a family unit, talk and learn from each other, and simply enjoying family time. We take walks (while practicing social distancing) with our canine family, enjoying the outdoors and the pleasure of being together while experiencing nature’s beauty. I am confident we all know and appreciate the importance of our family unit to each other. When we are all separated, we are distracted by the treadmill of life and forget the importance it holds in our lives. In today’s fast world, face to face interaction has been replaced by emails and texting. This happens in our professional and personal life. Our recent time together has reminded me how important it is to not only be together, but share thoughts and ideas, and affirm the love we have for each other. The “Kenkel clan” remains strong, supportive, and in sync with each other. We value the time together even more these days.
3) Staying connected can be overwhelming!– It is so hard to truly disconnect these days regardless of where you are in the world. We have been lucky enough to travel to Africa and over the past five years noted a change where all camps now have WiFi “allowing” one to stay connected. While clearly a benefit, it saddened us to know that the place we loved to travel to and escape back to nature at its core is now “touched”. Sometimes, we all can be overwhelmed by the daily emails, texts, and news updates. In these very difficult and constantly changing times, these daily “contacts” can be depressing and humbling. Last Friday I woke up on my 3rd day of sheltering and made the decision to not watch or read the news for 24 hours. I stayed in touch with work and my patients through email and MyChart but isolated myself from the COVID-19 and the plight of the stock market. I woke up Saturday refreshed and better able to deal with the activities ahead of me. In no way am I advocating isolating oneself and becoming reclusive. To the contrary, it is essential to stay in touch, particularly in these times where things are changing rapidly. However, one must have awareness of who you are and how you feel. These life events have personal and professional effects on us all and sometimes we need isolation or specific actions to help us though things. For me, I knew I just needed a break from it all. Six days later, I can tell you that one action for 24 hours has me in a better place.
I generally am a positive person and see the world as glass half full. I also believe everything happens for a reason and always look for the silver lining in things. This past week has reminded me that the decision I made nearly 40 years ago to become a physician was the right one for me and there is no question that I would do it all over again. I have been reminded how lucky I am to have a loving and supportive wife who is not only my spouse but my best friend and confidant. We make a great team together and simply put, enjoy each other’s company on every level. I continue to be amazed at her insight and thoughtfulness. I have learned that your kids are still your kids no matter how old they are! As young adults contributing to our society, they make me so proud of who they are and their contributions to our world. The four of us love to hang out and do almost anything together, at home or on the road. It just doesn’t matter! That has not changed at all. Life is precious and still enjoyable even under these current conditions.
I hope each and every one of you are safe and well and have a support mechanism like I have with family and/or friends. I wish for a speedy end to this pandemic and a quick recovery by all who were impacted by it.
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