On Pain: Maybe we like the pain. Maybe we’re wired that way. Because without it, I don’t know; maybe we just wouldn’t feel real. What’s that saying? Why do I keep hitting myself with a hammer? Because it feels so good when I stop.
On Intimacy: Intimacy is a four syllable word for, “Here’s my heart and soul, please grind them into hamburger, and enjoy.” It’s both desired, and feared. Difficult to live with, and impossible to live without. Intimacy also comes attached to the three R’s… relatives, romance, and roommates. There are some things you can’t escape. And other things you just don’t want to know.
On Growing Up: I’ve heard that it’s possible to grow up – I’ve just never met anyone who’s actually done it. Without parents to defy, we break the rules we make for ourselves. We throw tantrums when things don’t go our way, we whisper secrets with our best friends in the dark, we look for comfort where we can find it, and we hope – against all logic, against all experience. Like children, we never give up hope…
On Denial: Sometimes reality has a way of sneaking up and biting us in the ass. And when the dam bursts, all you can do is swim. The world of pretend is a cage, not a cocoon. We can only lie to ourselves for so long. We are tired, we are scared, denying it doesn’t change the truth. Sooner or later we have to put aside our denial and face the world. Head on, guns blazing. De Nile. It’s not just a river in Egypt, it’s a freakin’ ocean. So how do you keep from drowning in it?
On Greed: I have an aunt who whenever she poured anything for you she would say “Say when”. My aunt would say “Say when” and of course, we never did. We don’t say when because there’s something about the possibility, of more. More tequila, more love, more anything. More is better.
On Happiness: Maybe we’re not supposed to be happy. Maybe gratitude has nothing to do with joy. Maybe being grateful means recognizing what you have for what it is. Appreciating small victories. Admiring the struggle it takes simply to be human. Maybe we’re thankful for the familiar things we know. And maybe we’re thankful for the things we’ll never know. At the end of the day, the fact that we have the courage to still be standing is reason enough to celebrate.
On The Real World: Surgeons are control freaks. With a scalpel in your hand, you feel unstoppable. There’s no fear, there’s no pain. You’re ten-feet tall and bulletproof. And then you leave the OR. And all that perfection, all that beautiful control, just falls to crap.
On Effective Denial: The key to surviving a surgical internship is denial. We deny that we’re tired, we deny that we’re scared, we deny how badly we want to succeed. And most importantly, we deny that we’re in denial. We only see what we want to see and believe what we want to believe, and it works. We lie to ourselves so much that after a while the lies start to seem like the truth. We deny so much that we can’t recognize the truth right in front of our faces.
On Being Alone: Four hundred years ago, another well-known English guy had an opinion about being alone. John Donne. He thought we were never alone. Of course, it was fancier when he said it. “No man is an island entire unto himself.” Boil down that island talk, and he just meant that all anyone needs is someone to step in and let us know we’re not alone. And who’s to say that someone can’t have four legs. Someone to play with or run around with, or just hang out.
On Excess: When you were a kid, it was Halloween candy. You hid it from your parents and you ate it until you got sick. In college, it was the heavy combo of youth, tequila and well, you know. As a surgeon, you take as much of the good as you can get because it doesn’t come around nearly as often as it should. ‘Cause good things aren’t always what they seem. Too much of anything, even love, is not always a good thing.
On Communication: Communication. It’s the first thing we really learn in life. Funny thing is, once we grow up, learn our words and really start talking the harder it becomes to know what to say. Or how to ask for what we really need.