Friday, August 31, 2018

Fear is a liar.




Me: "So wait. I'm making sure I hear you correctly. You said this first started when?"
Her: "Like two and a half years ago."

*silence*

Her: "I know. I know I should've come before now. I know. "
Me: *silence*
Her: "You are probably thinking I'm crazy."
Me: "I didn't say that."
Her: "You didn't have to."

*silence*

Her: "I was just . . .I was just so, so. . . ." *starts crying*
Me: "Afraid?"
Her: *crying and nodding*
Me: "It's okay. You're here now."
Her: "I've been scared every day. And I would want to come but then I would just get too scared of some bad news."
Me: "I get it. I'm serious. I do."
Her: "You do?"
Me: "We all scared of something."

*silence*

Her: "What are you scared of?"
Me: "The same things you scared of, I think. Something bad. Something taking me from my family. Something that make it where I can't do what I want to do in my life."
Her: *staring*
Me: "Or rather what I feel like I'm supposed to do."

*silence*

Her: "Can I ask you a question?"
Me: "Sure."
Her: "Do you think I'm gonna be okay?"
Me: "I think anything is better than living every day in fear. So yeah. I think today you are more okay than yesterday. And that's a good thing."
Her: *starts crying again*

*silence*

Her: "I'm so relieved. To tell somebody. To get this weight off my chest."
Me: "And I'm happy that you are here and that we are sitting here together."
Her: *smiles*
Me: *smiles back*

I remember a few years ago when I had a health scare. I had something happening in my body that didn't seem right. I worried for two full weeks. When I finally told Harry I was crying before I could even explain. Man. I was so scared when I finally went to get it checked out.

Whew.

And no--I didn't wait two and a half years but even in those two and a half minutes that passed between the doctor looking at my results and telling me what could have been life-altering information, I fully understood how she felt.

Damn, I did.

Look, man. Fear can present itself in all kinds of ways. Sometimes it marches in like a King Kong with big muscles and gnashing teeth. Other times it's a smooth operator and completely in disguise. And the only things to take it down are love and truth. And today they both showed up like a badass tag team.

Sure did.

I love it when fear loses. And today it did.

Hell yeah.

***
#amazinggrady #fearisaliar #getitchecked #maketheappt #knowingisbetterthanworrying #loveisthewhat #andfearisapunkassbeeyotch

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Squeaks and Squawks.



Him: "Them shoes you wearing is some a your favorite shoes?"
Me: *looking down* "My shoes?"
Him: "Yeah. Your shoes. They your favorites?"
Me: *squinting eyes and thinking* "Ummm. . . I guess I like them. They're good work shoes for the most part. And this color goes with a lot of stuff."
Him: "You mean it's a good work shoe for YOU."
Me: "Huh?"

*silence*

Him: "Look here. If them ain't your favorite shoes--hell, your ONLY shoes, then you need to go on and retire 'em."
Me: *looking down at my shoes again*
Him: "Miss Manning you woke me up two different times this week with that damn squeaky shoe. And today it was both of 'em squawking? Lord Jesus! Unh uh!"
Me: *laughing*
Him: "Them shoes got to GO. Or you gon' need to kick 'em off for you get on my hall so folk can get some rest."
Me: *still laughing*
Nurse: "Tell her how you really feel."
Me: "I was in denial."
Him: "Well you need to get out of denial. Or out my room in that shoe."

*laughter*

He's right. I do love the shoes. And I have no idea why or when they started squeaking like this and how to fix it. Wait--I take that back. It was after getting caught in the rain last week. I guess I just hoped it wasn't as bad as I knew it was.



Ha.

That got me thinking about all of the things that we totally notice but that we act like people don't see. Like the skirt that used to fit but is now too tight. Or that stomach or thigh you bared that reeeeally wasn't ready for sunshine or for going un-Spanxed. Or that very odd weave or hairdo that leaves people speechless (to your face.) Or the reeeally wrinkled shirt that you know you should have taken a moment to iron. Or even the funny smelling shirt that you hope only you've noticed. Man. . .If you noticed? Oh, someone else noticed.

Totally.

And this? This is just one more thing to love about Grady. You'll immediately know if you've gained weight, if your decision to go grey is questionable and even if you need some gum since your breath smells like garlic and onions after lunch. Folk will tell you, do you hear me?
By the way--that same patient told me that I shouldn't button too many buttons on my white coat because it makes me look like I'm. . . wait for it. . . ."with child."

Bwah.

***

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

L-O-V-E.



I took care of you in the hospital for fifteen days straight. I was there when you first came in with those symptoms. And I held your hand when you found out why.
“I am not afraid,” you said. “I’m just really, really glad you’re here.”

And you said that every single one of those days after. You also said the same thing to me each day before I left your room:

“I love you.”

Which isn’t something we never hear as doctors but is something out of the ordinary. But you—you said it each and every time.

I love you.

Not “I’ve got love for you.” Not “I love all that you’ve done.” But those three simple words spoken with clear intention every time.

I love you.

When your body got sicker and you were in pain, I held your hand again. And you looked into my eyes and told me once more, “I am not afraid. I’m just really, really glad you’re here.”

And then, “I love you.”

You had a big fight ahead of you. The kind of big that comes in like a playground bully, stealing lunches and terrorizing the innocent and weak. You were brave and fought back. You did. But that bully wouldn’t leave you be.

No it would not.

Someone called me the other day to tell me you’d been readmitted. This time sicker and requiring intensive care. I was grateful to have been told and made a plan to go see you first thing in the morning the next day.

You transitioned before I could.

Damn.

Today I am thinking of you. Letting your memory remind me of the great privilege of caring for you and every one of my patients at Grady. I am remembering our time together and speaking back the words you gave to me:

I am not afraid. I’m just really, really glad you’re here.

and

I love you.

Yeah.
***


Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Open doors.




You weren’t nice to me. Your words were scathing and mean—the kind designed to cut straight down to the bloodless white meat. Though I’d told myself over and over again that it wasn’t really about me, how could I be sure? You weren’t an angry patient pounding a fist on the tray table when denied Percocet. You were a learner.

A learner.

We had things in common. Undeniable things. That made this blow land harder on my jaw. And, what’s worse, is that I didn’t even see it coming so it came like a ruthless sucker punch.

Ooph.

I told myself that I’d tried my best. That your approval doesn’t matter. Me trying is what mattered. But on that day I was forced to admit it. It does. Of course it does. Especially from the ones like you.

Like us.

I told a colleague friend about what you said. I was honest about how it felt and admitted that it hurt. Together we unpacked it all and I looked inward for what, if any of it, was true.

“Even if a person isn’t happy, there is a way to express it,” my friend said. “This isn’t it. This feels like something else.”

“Yeah.” That was all I could say.

“No matter what, I say keep the door open. Don’t lash out. You can only control you. Make it known that you are always a phone call away. Even after all that, you are. You have to be.”

“Do I?”

“I think so.”

After that, I sent a message your way keeping the door open like she said. I chose kindness. And you? You chose radio silence.

Yep.

That was a while ago. Time has passed. New learners have come along and both of us have moved on. Fortunately, we won’t have to interact again. So given that, mostly I pushed the memory away. And I suspect from the indifference I perceived that you never even had to push it anywhere.

Nope.

But funny how life is with our paths. Just when you think something is behind you, Life LOLs and shows you otherwise. And the older I get, the more I wonder if anything is really ever behind anyone.

Hmm.

Today a silhouette was coming my way and, from a distance, I couldn’t tell it was you. But by the way you slowed your feet, I could see you knew it was me. As you got closer, you stopped and just sort of stared.

“Hey you.” I broke the ice with something neutral. “You doing okay?” I smiled. And it wasn’t even forced.

At first your face appeared pensive. But then it softened with relief.

“Hey, Dr. M,” you replied quietly. And then you let out this tired sigh. Your shoulders sagged..
We talked a bit. I gave you a hug. You hugged me back. And it was good. It was.

See, we have things in common. Undeniable things. And because of those things, i know how hard it can be to navigate all of this as who you are. As who we are. So very hard sometimes.

I know.

“Call me, okay?” That’s what I said.
“I will,” you say back. “For real, I will.”

This time you hug me. I hug you back.

Control you, she said. I’m so glad I did.

This time especially.

Yeah. 

Snitches and stitches.



If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

________________________________

On rounds at Grady

Him: "I just wanted to say sorry for how acted yesterday. I shouldn't have cussed at you and called you out your name like that."
Me: *silence*
Him: "I was just in pain. But I know you was just trying to look out for me. I shouldn'ta said all that to you, though."

*silence*

Me: "Um. Are you sure I'm the one you cursed out? I appreciate your apology but I'm not sure I'm the one who should be getting it."
Him: "Damn. Am I going crazy? I was sure it was you."

*silence*

Neighbor on other side of the curtain starts laughing. Loud and hard. We both swing our heads in the direction of that loud cackle.
Neighbor: "Yeah it was you."
Me: "Sir?"
Neighbor: "Bruh, you did have some words for her but it was after she left. You was talking to ME not HER, remember?"
Him: *eyes widened*
Neighbor: "Be glad you didn't hear it, doc. It was . . .whooo." *starts laughing super hard again* "Mane! That lady ain't even know you said nothing!"
Him: *now laughing too* "Damn! I snitched on myself!"
Neighbor: "Yeah bruh. Where they do that at?"

*laughter*

Neighbor: "Want me to tell you what he said?"
Me: "Nah, I'm good."

*laughter*

Him: "At least I said I was sorry."
Me: "True that."
Neighbor: "Hey. . . .do snitches REALLY get stitches in the hospital?"
*howling with laughter*
A Grady elder once told me:
"Some shit said 'bout you ain't meant for you to be hearing. Don't go dissecting some little bitty shit you overheard on Tuesday that don't mean nothing on Wednesday."

Bwah.

This was in reference to her niece whose feelings were hurt because she was earhustling and overheard her auntie talking about her. That elder said she didn't answer the phone when her niece called because she talks too much. When confronted, that elder said:
"Well. You do."

Ha.

Here's what I now know for sure: People say all kinds of things. And sometimes? Some things said about us just AREN'T meant for our ears. Nope. Does it mean the person wants to ruin your life or see you go bankrupt? Nah. And in a perfect world would everyone be saying only nice things? Sure. But you know? It's not that heavy, man.

You know? I'm convinced that my angry-about-oxycodone patient who cursed me out to his neighbor isn't the only person saying something unflattering about me away from my ears.

And I'm cool with that. Supercool, in fact.

So. . .if a tree falls in the woods and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound?
Well. That depends on if the tree is a snitch.

(Or in the room with one.)

OMG. I love this place.

***
Happy Humpday.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Aretha.




Any and every resident or medical student who has ever worked with me at Grady has heard me say these words:

"Rock steady, baby."

It is what I say when a patient is doing better. It is what I say when everything is going well. It is the response I give to someone telling me they got several interviews for jobs or fellowships. Or even just the thing I offer someone who asks how things are going with me.

"Rock steady, baby."

It is the song that lifted my spirits after losing my sister. The one that lulled me out of bed and outside to learn to run to combat grief. The beat that thumped in my chest when I spoke to millions of people on CNN as the Chilean miners were rescued. The velvety voice that crooned over my shoulder when stepping up to a podium to give a lecture. And the jam that helped me cross finish lines for those 13.1 mile races I never believed I could run.

Rock steady, baby.

See, I believe that everyone should have a soundtrack playing in their head every single day. Those who know me and have read my blog know that I have a mental iPod playing 24-7. I kid you not--if my life were a movie and it had to have a musical soundtrack? Right at the top of the playlist would be this song.

Rock steady, baby.

Sometimes I put my earjacks in and strut straight into Grady to the beat of this song playing in my ear--literally. But most times? I don't even need it. I can hear it clear as a bell no matter what other ambient noises are around me.

Yup.

Something about the bass. The horns. Her voice. Her voice. . . and the background singers, too. All of it seems to swirl in my spirit and speak to my mood. It says, "You are good. You will be fine. Things are good. And if they aren't, they will be or they can be."

Rock steady, baby.

It makes me want to high five people, do the bump with somebody in the elevator, and put some pep in my step. It makes me want to convince a patient they can make it, shake the hand of a security guard, and raise my hand in the back of the teaching conference. It lifts my spirits and puts my feet on a positive path. Yes. That.

Rock steady, baby.

Such a perfect song. Nothing too fancy. Not too many complicated lyrics. Just good, clean soul. I mean, let's call this song exactly what it is.

Mmmm hmmmm.

So if you see me around Grady or anywhere for that matter. . . .and you wonder why I look like I hear music in my head? It's because I do. And thanks to the Queen of Soul, it is probably this very song.

Rock steady, baby.

Aretha will forever be playing on my mental iPod as a reminder to feel the rhythm of each day and step into it with gratitude. And then? Just call this life exactly what it is: One I'm glad to be living.

Rock steady, baby.



Rest in power, Soror Aretha. Your talent and legacy will live on forever. May you forever move rock steady, baby.

***

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Busy is a liar.




The last 36 hours for me have been insurmountably busy. Emotionally, spiritually, physically and personally--all of it like a whirlwind of moments stacked on top of one another in a giant, endless pile. Juggling time for myself and my commitments with the needs of my family and others has been challenging. It's been a lot.

But not impossible.

The older I get and the more I live, the more I realize that it IS possible for busy people to keep a space open in their hearts for concern for others.

Yep.

Yesterday a sorority sister of mine reached out to check on me about something I'd asked her to pray about before. She's busy, too. So that wasn't lost on me.

Another time, my friend David flew all the way back to Atlanta from Philadelphia where he'd just moved three weeks before to attend my sister's memorial service. And, because we are good friends, I knew how chaotic his life was at that time. I did. And I never forgot that.

Nope.

So recently, someone I care about has been navigating a tough time with a sick loved one. And I have been fortunate to walk with her a little bit during this difficult time. A lot of it has transpired in the last 36 hours, too. The epicenter of the same crazy 36 hours that I have been muddling through myself.

At the end of my rounds yesterday, I got a text from that friend. I slipped away from the hustle bustle of the hospital into an empty-ish stairwell. I sat down right on the stairs and, in the middle of my busy day, called my friend. I listened to her talk. I said a few things and then let her go tend to the needs of her family. After that, I scooped it all up and tucked it into my heart for safekeeping.

Then I went back to my work. The whole thing took five minutes.

Listen--nobody can be present for everyone. And Lord knows I drop the ball sometimes and that I have to draw lines somewhere. But what I also know is that it's so easy to trick ourselves into thinking that we're too busy to be emotionally available for those we care about. Or that it doesn't matter when we aren't. I now know for sure that this just isn't true. And that it doesn't even take as much time as I once thought.

Nope.

Sure--sometimes showing up involves planes, trains, and automobiles. But other times? It just involves plopping down on a metal step in a stairwell, just a little bit of effort, and a decision to stop for a few seconds to remember someone in real time.

Once you live long enough and go through enough, you know that it makes a difference. You do.

Yeah. 

***

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

August.



Waiting for the elevator today at Grady when one of my favorite Grady employees walks up:

Him: "Hey my favorite doc! You having a good day?"
Me: "Hey friend! I'm hangin' in. You?"
Him: "I'm cool. You know what, Dr. Manning? Every time I see you? You always look like you havin' a good day. ALWAYS, you know that? So I don't even know why I asked. I can just look at you and tell."
Me: "Well that's a nice thing to say."
Him: "It's the truth, Miss Manning."

*silence*

Me: "You want to know the truth, sir? Today hasn't been my favorite."
Him: "No? Damn. But you smiling. And on the outside you seem like you happy."
Me: "I didn't say I wasn't happy. I just said today wasn't my favorite is all."
Him: "You okay?"
Me: "I think so."
Him: "What's wrong?"

*silence*

Me: "It's August. My sister that passed a few years back would have turned 50 this month."
Him: *eyes widened* "Damn. She died?"
Me: *nods head* "Yup."
Him: "Damn. I ain't know you lost a sister. That's messed up, man. I hate hearing that."
Me: "Yeah. Me, too."

*silence*

Him: "So you happy. . . but this just ain't your favorite day, huh?"
Me: "Pretty much."
Him: "I had a brother that got shot. Wrong place wrong time. Died the next day. He was young, too."
Me: "Dang. I'm sorry."
Him: *shaking his head* "I feel you, doc. Losing your family ain't no joke."
Me: "That it ain't."

*silence*

Him: "You know what? I like that you let yourself be both things at the same time. Like, it can be a shitty day but that don't mean it's a shitty life."
Me: *squinting eyes* "Wow. That's a good word right there."
Him: "Yeah. Real talk though."
Me: *smiling* "The doors of the church are now open."

*laughter*

Him: "Well I think I'm gon' try to work on letting my life show more than my day whenever I can. 'Cause I think I got a good life."
Me: "Me, too, friend. Me, too."

After that we joined a crowded lunchtime elevator full of people and didn't say much else. But for that whole ride, we were both smiling and letting our lives shine. We sure were.

And the best part? That little exchange made my day better. It did.

Damn, I love this place.

***