Questions for Tomorrow.

Do you change to thrive or do you thrive to change?

Are bus drivers actually angels sent from above to help the mentally ill?

Is a perfect roommate even better than the perfect soulmate?

Why do the menstrual cycles of different women sync up easily but political parties never come to a consensus?

Why worry about saving for a future house you don’t want to purchase?

Why does it feel utterly comforting when your building’s security guard smiles at you?

Can people completely change their true natures?

Why do high school friends remember details about you that you’ve long forgotten?

Why is it so hard to connect with others even though we are hard-wired to be social, attached beings?

Do mothers lose a sense of self? Do single women lose a sense of meaning?

In 100 degree weather, why do buildings run air conditioning to the point of hypothermia?

Why do some people who gorge on sweets never develop diabetes?

How can animals understand the depths of your soul better than you can?

Why do loud people get all the credit when humble silent people do all the work?

When will the medical community admit that Trump is mentally unfit for office?

When will I come to terms with myself?

How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop?  🙂

-devs

 

 

 

A Day in the Life of Devs

Cocoa therapy:

Chocolate swirls and cocoa whirls,

marshmallows oozing on top,

the finest chocolate in the city

can’t replace what was lost

Outsider:

Not satisfied with the chocolate,

I open the heavy wooden door to the trendy and pricey restaurant.

All I see is a sea of white.

I am the only person of color in this establishment.

I eat the fancy pizza nervously with my head down, perusing my favorite magazine.

Recognition:

A toddler with clear blue eyes and golden hair comes up to me

“Ask the lady if she’s an attorney,” says his father.

The toddler continues to stare at me.

“She’s reading the New Yorker magazine. She must be an attorney.”

I turn to the father and explain that I’m a doctor, not a lawyer.

After they leave, I crack a smile. I love breaking stereotypes!

Maybe I was an attorney in my last life.  🙂

-devs-

Eulogy Virtues Part II

Two years ago, I wrote about David Brook’s piece in the New York Times (https://thoughtsandtremors.wordpress.com/2015/04/13/eulogy-virtues/). It’s funny what can happen in 2 years. I feel I’m farther away from my goals than I ever imagined!

Austrian poet Ranier Maria Rilke’s words come to mind:  “Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

Although my questions did not lead to answers, they did lead to personal growth. And maybe this growth is more important than my goals which is exactly what David Brooks is trying to convey in his Ted Talk on eulogy virtues.

Let’s be clear here. David Brooks is not the most entertaining speaker. His style is the opposite of the current President’s. On a side note, I’m not sure how a yellow-haired loud-mouthed populist who lacks competency as a moral human being, or even a moral ape, can be an influential speaker. Yet Brooks puts together a great argument: find your weaknesses and turn them into a life of love.

In the Ted Talk, this quote by American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr stands out:

“Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope.Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history;therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone;therefore we must be saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as from our own standpoint. Therefore we must be saved by that final form of love, which is forgiveness.”

Forgiveness as a form of love. Such a great thought to ponder on. Ponder away folks! Let these concepts simmer within you like a pilot light in a 1940’s gas wall heater (one of the perks of living in a house built in the 1920’s…lead poisoning here I come!).

-devs-

The Flow of Words

20170103_095913

Humor:

Parts of me dwindle down, allowing my former self to peek out into the scary abyss.

Don’t be afraid Humor, jump into the world where you are Missed.

Missing:

The dog’s silky hair, free time, sunshine, mom’s food, my brother’s off-putting yet cozy smell, the yellow stains on the ceiling from the water leak, the friends who don’t Pity me

Pity:

You don’t go out to eat on the weekends? You don’t have any friends or family in town? You moved here without knowing anyone? You’re single? Wow, that’s Brave.

Bravery:

Bravery leads the way, as the other parts follow blindfolded

Stumbling through a dark forest, twigs crunching below their feet

Lengthy hazing ritual for a new beginning

Now open your blindfolds, look at each other, and hold hands

The the most difficult part is about to start!

-devs

The Wisdom of Jewel’s Journey

It’s rare to find a podcast episode that awakens your inner heart. James Altucher’s interview of the singer Jewel opens your universe. For those going through a struggle, reinvention, or midlife crisis, Jewel’s journey from homeless girl to a mindful artist provides a guide on how to thrive during uncertain times.

As a child of divorce living in Alaska with her father, Jewel had a unique upbringing. On one hand, she was a homesteader─living off the land in a sustainable way─and grew up in a barn. On the other hand, she and her dad routinely sang at bars which allowed her to express and nurture her musical talents. Jewel’s father was abusive which complicated matters even further. When most kids her age were goofing off, she struggled with “nature vs nurture” questions. Am I doomed to an abusive life where I will abuse others or can I cultivate a mindset that allows me to change my situation?

“Could I re-nurture myself?”

She chose to change her destiny and at the tender age of 15, Jewel enrolled at a high school for the arts and moved by herself to Michigan. What insight from such a young person!

Jewel moved to San Diego to be closer to her mother once she graduated from high school. After being propositioned by her boss and refusing to have sex with him, Jewel found herself jobless and living out of her car. During this period of her life she became sick multiple times from kidney infections. She was so sick and febrile at one point, she walked into a hospital in a daze but was refused medical care for not having insurance! Luckily an “angel” doctor found her and provided her with free medical care and antibiotics. Yet things got worse when someone stole her car, the one place she called home. In an instant, Jewel was homeless and living on the street at the age of 18!

“It was one of the most transformative experiences of my life. It’s a very demoralizing thing to be in that type of position where you’re just stuck on survive mode.”

While living in this animalistic mode with no hope and no money, she decided to shoplift a dress from a store. She stopped when she saw her reflection in the mirror. Is this really who I want to be?  At that moment she recalled a quote by the Buddha, “Happiness doesn’t depend on who we are or what we have, it depends on what we think.” Yet again she used her resiliency skills to create a positive outlook during a dark time. Mind over matter! First, she learned about her own fear and anxiety.

“Fear is this thief, and it takes the past and projects it into the future. It robs you of the only moment you have to create any change in your life”

Then Jewel started noticing her hands. They were always clenched or held tightly to her body. So she let them go: she used her hands to to shake others’ hands and to open doors for people. Finally, she brokered a deal with a coffee shop to increase their customer base by receiving payment to sing. At the age of 19 while still living on the streets, she was offered a $1,000,000 deal to sign to a record label!

Any homeless 19-year-old would have signed immediately. Not Jewel! She had the foresight to read up on record deals and knew she would not be able to sell enough records to meet the requirements of the contract. She decided to sign a much smaller deal which allowed her to express her authentic style of music─the type of music that was vulnerable and didn’t actively seek out an audience. Jewel learned from nature to cultivate herself to be a hard-wood tree instead of a soft-wood tree.

“Hard wood grows slowly.”

Yet hard-wood trees think long-term and are able to survive life’s upheavals due to a solid foundation.

“Shortcuts lead to soft-wood trees that fall over quickly.”

Despite Jewel’s huge success in the music industry, she still faced challenges later in life such as a divorce and mismanagement of her earnings by her mother. Each time she encountered a new challenge, Jewel reinvented herself by working HARD and nourished her inner happiness rather than focusing on external outcomes.

“What if it’s not that I’m broken? What if there’s a part of me that exists whole at all times? I just have to do a very loving archaeological dig back to my whole self.”

She followed the map of her inner self and her inner values, not the map of others. Jewel concentrated on the goals that were speaking to her soul. As a physician who quit my practice, I know firsthand how difficult it is to listen to your inner voice because of the distracting sounds of society’s expectations.

Jewel’s journey proves that success is a mindset. It doesn’t matter if you have only $50 in your bank account because you are capable of improving your situation by altering your thoughts. For those who think it’s too late to reinvent yourself, think again. Life is about change! Change your goals, change your lifestyle, and change your mindset to become the true person you were meant to be.

If there’s one podcast episode you listen to, let it be this one! Click on the link below to play or download the podcast.

-devs-

http://www.jamesaltucher.com/2016/09/jewel/

Gratitude and the Forest of Authenticity

It only takes a few people to show you new ways of thinking, new ways of being. Wild methods of living that allow for enriching experiences. Why live in an apple orchard when you can dance in the rainforest? My life as a robot is officially over and my cup of gratitude toasts those who guided me to new horizons. Thank you to the handful of friends in California who helped me question everything, the money, the career, the expectations, the false relationships. I even question myself. What is my purpose? What is my joy? Escaping the brainwashing and lies was my greatest accomplishment, and now I look forward to going deeper into the forest of authenticity, my true home.

 

Teaching Children Useful Emotional Skills

When I dabbled in the education field, I observed what kids were being taught. Math and science, critical thinking, reading comprehension. Yet the curriculum does not cover topics like perseverance, self-improvement, and community-building, which may be more useful than any other subject.

Kids are not taught how to deal with difficult future situations: academic struggles, unemployment, crime, bullying, death of a family member, health problems, domestic violence, divorce, poverty, and racism. Children who do encounter problems often work with school counselors on an individual basis. But there is no universal curriculum on resilience.

Why is resilience so important? Here is why (from my personal perspective):

For my entire life up until the age of 31, I had never encountered any severe problems. I failed one test in high school and I took a leave of absence during medical school (due to intense stress from the competitive environment). Other than those two things, my life was okay. I set goals and always reached them despite enduring daily stress and unhappiness in the medical field. I became a doctor and found a great job. No major struggles came my way. So when an unexpected death in the family shattered my heart and my optimism, I completely fell apart.

After leaving the practice of medicine to grieve and explore other careers, I felt bitter and hopeless. Honestly, I felt the entire world was against me despite being a high functioning physician one year earlier. Unemployment and confusion about my next career path turned me into a negative person, and I didn’t have the skills to fight off feelings of despair.

I had never failed before so I didn’t have practice using resilience. If I went through this ordeal as a physician with a supportive family, imagine what struggles kids from low-income neighborhoods encounter! I have seen all kinds of people become hopeless due to lack of resilience, which puts them at risk of depression, homelessness, drug abuse, and crime. The lesson I have learned is that resilience requires PRACTICE and needs to be taught in childhood or adolescence!

Here are useful tools to improve outcomes during difficult emotional times:

Deep breathing and meditation exercises

Networking skills

Patience

Simple cognitive-behavioral exercises (such as triaging problems and finding solutions)

Being able to share shame, anxiety, and fear with others

Communication skills to resolve interpersonal conflicts

Self-discipline

Maintaining a stable self-esteem

Eating healthy and exercising

Supporting an internal locus of control (you have control over your life instead of environmental factors having control)

Seeking out academic help

Learning from mentors and surrounding yourself with positive/motivated people

Transforming negative thinking into positive thinking (what positive lessons did you learn from a traumatic event?)

Seeking out appropriate social services (including help for mental health, housing, and employment issues)

Writing in a journal or diary

Celebrating every small step of improvement.

Finally, having the knowledge that things will get better as long as you keep trying. In the words of Galaxy Quest, “Never Give Up! Never Surrender!” These are all skills that can be taught in a classroom!

If we take time to teach high schoolers how to apply to college and study for the SAT, let’s also give them the emotional tools they’ll need to succeed in all aspects of life by making them resilient in the face of obstacles.

-devs-

If you have time, check out Angela Lee Duckworth’s Ted Talk on the effects of grit in the school system:

 

And here’s an inspiring clip from Galaxy Quest:

 

 

Abandoning the Work I Hated

Link to “Abandoning the Work I Hated” by Robert Markowitz: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/08/20/abandoning-the-work-i-hated/?WT.mc_id=2015-SEPTEMBER-FB-MC6-AUD_DEV-0901-0930&WT.mc_ev=click&ad-keywords=AUDDEVREMARK&_r=0

“Abandoning the Work I Hated” is the single most eye-opening personal essay I’ve ever read. Mr. Markowitz describes the intensity of his career as a young criminal lawyer along with the related physical symptoms in his body. He decides to quit his unfulfilling law career and live in Mexico for 2 years, while battling boredom and depression.

In an unexpected twist, after returning to the US, he discovers a love for entertaining children during volunteer work at a Sunday school. While browsing through wanted ads in the newspaper, he sees an ad for clown training and decides to give it a try.  Mr. Markowitz starts entertaining children at parties under the alias of “Bobo the Clown” and LOVES it! Next, a hidden passion for music is unearthed, and Mr. Markowitz starts creating and playing music for children’s events. The fulfillment of his new musical career provides motivation for him to wake up every day, a crucial element which his law career lacked.

The entire essay is inspiring to me, as I see myself in his shoes.  Mr. Markowitz admits feelings of frustration in finding a career outside of law but only being offered law jobs.  Similarly, I have had difficulty finding jobs at non-profit organizations, consulting firms, and health food stores while simultaneously receiving multiple job offers in pathology, a career in medicine I’m trying to leave behind.

I believe discovering one’s passion can be spontaneous. For most people in society, working as a clown for low wages after succeeding as a lawyer can seem bizarre, but for Mr. Markowitz, it was serendipitous. He never imagined he would become a clown; yet the event was life-changing, as it led him to pursue his dream job: children’s musical entertainment.

I am inspired by his courage and the hardships he endured to reach his happiness. He owns his struggle, as I do mine. I hope serendipity strikes me too!

Brief Exchanges between Couples (Overheard at the Airport)

At the gate:

Young Man:  I bought this sweatshirt for only $20 (pointing to the “I Love LA” sweatshirt he was wearing)!

Young Woman:  Why didn’t you buy me a sweatshirt?

On the airplane:

Old Indian Man:  Dear, do you want some? (referring to some sort of ethnic food in aluminum foil)

Old Indian Lady: Nods without speaking. Hands him The New York Times in exchange for the food.

In baggage claim:

Hipster Man:  I’ve written you a couple love letters, but you haven’t written me any!

Hipster Woman:  I wrote you a letter once. But it wasn’t a love letter.