I ate an entire bag of Hint of Lime tortilla chips. In my bed. At 11:30 at night.
Maybe that’s why I had crazy nightmares.
In my sodium induced sleep, I dreamt my parents had died. Suddenly and alone. I don’t remember the details of how I found out, but like many of my dreams I was in Med Ed, standing on the second floor breezeway.
I decided I would send them a smiley face emoji text. I held my phone in my hand waiting for a response (because let’s be real, my parent’s don’t text anyone but me). But it never came. And in that moment--even though I was dreaming— it felt real. It felt like I had lost them forever.
Perhaps grief and loss are best to known to us through pining for communication. Just one little smiley face? Tell me you’re okay. Tell me you can hear me. Let me know you’re still there.
Knowing they would never respond, I felt as though someone had cut me open from carotid to iliac crest. I stood eviscerated on the second floor landing. An orphan at 30.
I woke myself up screaming.
I looked at my alarm clock. 4:03am. Way too early to call my parents, who were no doubt fast asleep.
Funny that I should have the urge to call them now. When I have neglected to call them for weeks and only make halfhearted attempts to respond to their texts. They mail me cute cards and cartoons they’ve cut out of the newspaper— and yet sometimes I barely read them, before throwing them on top of my pile of papers.
My go to excuse is that I am busy. Medical school is my priority and exacts a price of free time and sanity. Besides, I’m doing this for us. As their only child, it will be my job to care for them when they are older. “I’ll put you in the nice nursing home,” I joke.
The trouble is, I think I have time. Time to spend with them later. Time to make up for all of the missed calls and days when I can’t come home because…you know…I’m studying.
How many times is enough to tell someone you love them? I guess the answer is always— just one more.
I realize that my priorities have been a bit backwards as of late. Okay…okay…maybe a bit longer than that. And it took a Super Bowl snack to help me realize that the time I have with the ones I love is now. What a wonderful thing to be reminded of onValentine’s Day.
My New Year’s resolutions (swear less, drink more water, and for the love of God to stop eating chips in bed) have long since gone out the window. So I’m going to make a new one right now. One that doesn’t include walking 10,000 steps a day. No, my new promise to myself is to talk to and spend time with my family. They are the reason I’m in medical school to begin with. I will make them proud, but I will also make time to listen about how crowded Trader Joe’s was or the cute thing that our dog did, or the weird cubicle mate my Dad has. Those are just as important as anything that could ever be on Step 1.
As physicians, it will be our job to give people back to their families. We fight to give our patients healthy years so that they can spend them with the people they love. We recognize that this is what life is really about, and that’s why we work so hard to earn a degree.
So do me a favor. Pick up your phone. Call your family. Tell them you love them. I think you’ll find, it’s just what the doctor ordered.