Sunday, January 28, 2018

Slowing Down Without Giving Up. Why the last days don't have to last forever.

If I could allow myself a conscious vice it would be to splurge on free time more often.

For all of the self-critical New Years resolutions to be a more "correct" picture of someone else's persona we are too often very hard on ourselves and it costs us to measure ourselves by a ruler of others choosing. Eventually you will fail to maintain the vision of perfection that isn't of your own volition. Being a fake never fits.

For the life of a veterinarian there is never a short list of to-do's awaiting. There is always some phone call to make, some patient to tend to, (even the ones you saw last week who still haunt you as you try to fall off to sleep when they haven't provided the thumbs up "I'm all better" update, (OH GOD! Please don't let them be dying behind the refrigerator at their home? Are the parents able to get the antibiotics in? Will they come back for a re-check if I ask/beg/plead? What if they don't because they think I will charge for it? Okay, I'll offer to do it for free.." the internal dialogue of fear-meets-paranoia-encapsulated in over bearing responsibility (very healthy for the psyche)).

What life changing event has to force me to slow down and smell the cat fur? It is death. Looming, unrelenting, gravity fed death. I all too often don't stop to sit and tell my furry kids that I love them until I am driven to my knees begging for the hands of death to loosen their grip for just a few more minutes on one of them.

I have stood here before. Holding vigil, plotting attacks, preparing myself quietly for letting go, and listing the excuses to convince myself to get through.

Death is knocking again.

The calling card can come in little clues. Subtle innuendos so slight only a mom can pick up on them.

Jekyll is 8. Only eight!! (That part pisses me off). He's a beagle. We breed them to be invincible. He is at the point where his mid-life crisis should be calling him to the couch and off the rabbit trails. I expected some twilight days with him. He can't go from scent possessed wanderer to six feet under, can he? Is that fair? Doesn't anyone play by the rules?

Jekyll is true to his ancestral genetics. He is rugged, docile, and compact enough to be lithe and wily. BUT, he is a lemon. Has been since day 1. He got the short end of every needed life preserving quality shy of cuteness, (he got an abundance of that one). It has served him to be spared time and time again. For all of his misgivings and mischievousness those sad beagle eyes, that low fluttered tail of  wagging, and the way he just throws himself into you when he greets you as if you were, and always will be, the most important human who ever lived, melts you. There is no human being capable of not recognizing genuine devotion and adoration from this dog. It is a talent I will never possess. He is never shy to dole out his whole heart to someone he has never met. And, by chance if he does know you he will jump, kiss, lower and fast wag, while casting his already too big, already too low, velveteen ears to the floor. If you can say "No! Get OFF!" to that face you lack heart, and you therefore lack purpose. He is my righting rod for humanity.

He is a beagle. Built around a nose. Assigned to three tasks in life;
1. Collect and sing for food. In the off chance event of a zombie apocalypse you need only to grab him. No need for the allocation of hard to come by square footage to save food for that dark day,,,, just grab the beagle he can find a corn kernel in a cavernous catacomb. He will sound the "beagle-bay" alarm when the kernel is cornered.
2. Slay hearts. No dog possesses more unadulterated unbridled charm than a beagle. The Casanova of the canines. The saddest part of their pedigree is this possession. It is used to their demise. Ask any researcher which dog is used for testing and why? Answer; the beagle because they are so sweet they won't complain even when you hurt them.
3. Be a companion. They are loyal to their death. They know which side their bread is buttered on and they never walk away from bread (or butter),, or any other food (or condiment).

Here we are. Eight years into our love story. And then the shoe drops. He has been struggling for a while. It took me weeks to find the source to his struggle. He has a mass in his urethra growing inside the pelvis that is making it difficult to pass urine and feces. He is pushing against a plug and in the end it will kill him. It is the stumbling block I will do everything I can to keep from today being the day I have to say goodbye. But this, this will be his undoing. I am furious and falling. I am slowing down again. Trying to capture more moments and not let anyone else's problems steal the few days I have with him. I know that life is fleeting and precious and that we all have choices on how we spend whatever time we get. I am here, I am going to fight to keep him happy and comfortable. I will lose to his disease but it won't ever be because we surrendered. It will be because we loved, and we lived, and we made the best of each moment.

There is one more important thing to talk about here, in the midst of the sea of despair. I am going to go on.

The most heart breaking part of being a veterinarian is to see people suffer through the last days/months of their pets lives and then close their heart to having another pet forever. The burden of caring for an ailing companion is the ability to give your time and love to someone else. It is the greatest gift we get; To give love away and live again to share with another soul.

Jekyll is a pup who needed me. He was the sidekick to my pitbull pup after losing his predecessor. The beagle for my ailing Savannah's last slipping days. He is slowing me down. I am taking a new lease on what a "resolution" should include. I don't need to be better, I just need to be present. Again, and again. And when it seems like it might all be too much,, again.

Here is a small sampling of the life I have lived with my beloved Jekyll.

A Tribute To A Beagle. My love story of my Jekyll.

The Things Only A Mom Knows. Planning For A Life Without Us.

Tis Better To Have Loved And Lost.

Jekyll Arrives. The first introductory blog on my new puppy.

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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Find What Breaks Your Heart AND Change It. How Imposter Syndrome Battles Compassion Fatigue

There is this pervasive gnawing of vulnerability following me. I'm running without the time to look back to see their red eyes of furious feverish pursuit hunting us, while in my arms lies some sick-dying desperate soul to save. It is always the same dream. All on me, all alone and fleeing.

In the trade we call it "imposter syndrome". Any mortal who is honest with themselves and humble in the magnitude of this profession understands that we cannot be everything to everyone and yet also be expected to hold the bar to the scrutiny of the specialists should the shit hit the fan.

At some point the dam breaks and you accept that you can only be true to your own sense of ability meets inability. You also learn to always be honest, inside and out. After that the cards fall where they will and you go on.

I have lived about 10 years as a veterinarian between insecurity-hugging-imposter AND activist-holding-up-compassionist. Quite a dichotomy. Plato's symposium meets my real-life. I can only be pulled into two different directions for so long. Every two headed-four legged sideshow freak suspended in formalin died for the same reason; at some point either one half dies, or they both do.

There is not one day that we aren't reminded how fragile life is and how many suffer just to survive.
One of 17 feral cats we are trying to save in the middle of a harsh winter this kitten weight 2.5 pounds and is over 6 months old. She should weigh at least three times that. Instead parasites, pneumonia and fighting for resources has stunted her to this state. Could you walk away? 

After all there are thousands, millions (?) just like her.
There are quotes of inspiration that transition into motivation. If you dwell long enough they can even convert your unsettled  inertia into purposeful kinetic momentum. I am one of those people. I don't like the sidelines. I don't wait for a coach to blow the whistle of permission to enter the game. Sunday I euthanized half of the patients I saw for the day. Quite the statistics to drive my point home. Death waits for no one. You can grow old, decrepit, and exhausted waiting for permission.

"Find out what breaks your heart, and do whatever you can to fix it." Abby Wambach. 

If I were one of the tattoo yielded kids I would have it emblazoned on my wrist. (You know the web-slinging place of Wonder Woman days.)

My heart breaks every single day that I am in practice. There isn't one day where we aren't faced with the reality of the state of our profession. People need us and we are not there for them. These people LOVE their pets and are desperate to help them. They get faced with closed door after closed door of unwillingness to even speak to them, never mind offer real meaningful care. It is the example of the desertion of humanity at its most basic. For me it is the most classic day-to-day reminder of how broken our society is. The smallest and weakest always suffer far beyond the wealthiest's purview. They land here, in our doorway, begging, every single day. To turn my back on them is torture, there is no denying their existence and yet there is no time to try to negotiate the terms to resolution.

I am left with a soapbox, a desperate call for action, and a profession who has come to terms with the divide between responsibility, profit, and castigation. It breaks my heart. It propels me to act and it leaves me vulnerable as the scale overflows my practices ability to hear the cries from below.

Maddie. My muse.
The source of the inspiration that broke my inertia

This shadowed mob of lynch men is real. If you don't think that we live in an angry hateful world ask whoever is on the other side of your political affiliation. We are not so tolerant of the other side. It weakens us all. The system doesn't like change. It fears disruption as a vulnerability deserving of inoculation, eradication and excision.

If I am not heartbroken by the indifference that is so overwhelmingly pervasive in our professional culture I would be both an imposter and a liar. There is a point where you get pulled apart and die from collateral damage to the host. How can I kill the girl who still gives a damn, remain sitting on the sidelines waiting for the pandemic of indifference shored up by excuses and vitriol to blame the other half to win?

If the statistics were available my point would be fueled by a mob so great the profession would fracture into its own broken system of public health practices and couture clinics. The non profits would start dominating the landscape at a precedence the corporate practices would take note of. If the advent of the human medicine minute-clinics restructured access to quick affordable basic care the high volume-low cost practices diversify to meet the need. The walls of secret hidden price schemes based primarily on lack of access and professional pursed lips will fall. If epi-pens were met by lawsuits and lynchings the vet profession better start looking inward.

Let's take some examples; if there is a 90% cure rate with medical intervention in urethral obstructions what is the economic euthanasia rate? How do we justify this growing statistic of unaffordable care when nothing about the treatment plan has changed? How do we answer the public when the cost of this treatment has escalated from less than $800 to over $4,000 in a decade? The difference is corporate profit.

There are inherent rights to every living thing;
1. They all are in the same race. Live and perpetuate living. It is fundamental and undeniable.
2. Action and inaction have consequences.
3. Inner truth is the only salvation to inner peace..

What are you willing to lose in an effort to remain whole? It is a question I ask myself every day as I try to outrun and outlast the mob at my heels.

Like every other civil movement there is a groundswell of people demanding change. For me, in this movement to return medicine to the place of compassionate discussions focused on patient care, and not corporate profits, it is a return NOT a redirect. It will take a war of anger, heartbreak and unwillingness to tolerate the system as it stands, or has evolved into, before the negotiating will begin. In the end the indifference for profit will never prevail. I don't care if this is over "property" and responsibility. It is about love, companionship, and ultimately our ability to recognize that each species, and all beings within these species, need each other.

Where am I? Just swimming against a tide of forgotten little guys still trying to save every single wet nose and still fighting for their tiny voices to be heard with a sea of sharks behind me.

What is my soapbox going to get? A voice on a stage with a megaphone to amplify the stories of the souls we have forgotten to serve. There is a change looming on the horizon, a mob who will have to answer some tough questions, and a whole population of under served who will have their day of reckoning.

What breaks your heart?

And what are you doing about it?

August. Found as a stray at the shelter with a broken femur.
Recovering with us and looking for a home.
She's the most precious kitten!

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Thursday, January 4, 2018

exit strategy and my professional headstone.

Exits are the inevitable precursor to change. Change happens, death is inevitable, and if you can foresee both early enough you might be able to succumb to them on your own terms. Isn’t that what we all hope for? To be able to exit stage right when YOU are ready, and not when the shepherds hook is secured around your waist and demanding you do so.

It has been a time of exits for me. Too many friends and colleagues are having to make quick decisions to protect the business they spent a lifetime building and invested everything into. We do it. We get caught up in feeling needed, wanted, and irreplaceable. It is the reward to the sacrifice we don’t want to face. The loss of a life in the creation of an empire. You have to build a life outside of your business or your exit will become an abrupt transition to a life you suddenly have to manifest from the few foreign tangible raw materials left over from your last chapter. Abrupt changes don’t work well. Our bodies, our minds, or being, is about gradation and slow evolution. Waking up in a hospital to be notified that the curtain call is approaching faster than you had anticipated is a stark harsh reality. For some of us it arrives in life changing accidents. For others it is a house of cards under someone else’s hand that collapsed. And for a few others it is the realization that escape is the only way out. To us, the “flee and be free” crowd the collateral damage is not simply protecting a lifetime of efforts, it is about getting out and hoping to still be alive on the other side. (Maybe it is that way for all of us at the threshold of the “emergency exit”?)

I am really (really) hoping that this isn’t all I am meant to be and do. That there is a life on the other side. More concerning, that this life, in whatever form it has, has meaning and purpose? That there isn’t just a shell of stuff with my scent on it. Some piece of detritus I left behind to mark my presence like some ancient hieroglyph to a life left and lost.

 At some point we all have to face the fact that life has choices and you’re going to have to accept the consequence of the choices you made and the life you built, (or forgot to make time to build). No one likes change. Especially a forced change. The answer to accepting them is to try to manage them on your own terms with your own fate in your own hands. If you do so quietly I think you torment yourself into fear based options. Fear and doubts are the devils recipe book.

Here are a few quotes I am stuck in between these days;

“Don’t wait to get sick or have some dramatic life-changing event. Build a life, not just a business.” Angela Benton

“When fear isn’t dominating you, there’s very little you can’t accomplish in business or in your personal life.” Tony Robbins.

I am working towards this one;

“I convinced myself that whatever was the worst thing that was going to happen, it wasn’t really that bad.” Sarah Kauss

And here I am, a new year, the same old insecurities, and the same old challenges (only apparently on a larger scale, or I just haven’t slayed the old ones and therefore the festering masses of dismay grew,, like some cancer I didn’t get clear margins on), and I have to get through, get out, or wait for the hook to pull me away on its terms.

Shit, if there’s a legacy here I hope it fits on a headstone and isn’t some snarky remark about the veneer of a girl who just couldn’t make it easier for herself.

P.S. This is a blog about a girl who dreams big, falls hard, and tries to coach herself back to the path of being kind and compassionate to the patients of vet med life.

If you are someone who struggles you already know you aren't alone. It is the single best directive for finding humanity and the quest for inner peace. 

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