Working on Christmas is something I never thought would happen. I must have been in denial. You see, through all of my education, there has always been a Winter Break. It was not until the third year of Med School that the subject of working holidays came up. Back then, depending on your rotation, you could generally skip it or not. After all, you were paying for the education, not getting paid.
I remember giving one holiday up so someone could be with their significant other. I was not sophisticated enough to look for a trade.
First year, internship, there was an assertive colleague who had birthday and anniversary that week. They signed up for it, and too that week between Christmas and New Years off. Alone and bewildered at my predicament, I wore five pagers covering five different services: orthopedics, neurosurgery, plastics, head and neck surgery, and urology. I spent most of the day in tears in the call room. Our call rooms were in a converted wing of a psych hospital. The mirrors were polished stainless steel. I hated being on call that day.
Second year, I had been sick and missed days in December. So? I got to take call for both Christmas AND New Year's Day at the VA. My husband came and spent the days with me. We went to Mass at the chapel, but it was sad.
First year in anesthesia, I don't recall. But second year I was at Children's Hospital on an outside rotation. Very lonely and sad, In a cinder block apartment across from the hospital. I played carols and wrote Christmas Cards. I didn't know people plan extra kid's surgery for the time off. We were busy, quite busy at work.
My last year, I was chief resident. When the Jewish senior resident didn't want to work, I assigned the day to myself. My husband did not stay with me, but I think may have brought dinner for the team. Christmas had become for me, just another day, a sacrifice best ignored.
Later, I think I did okay, with one exception: my father's last Christmas. As a cardiac anesthesiologist, someone had to cover any heart cases from home. I had been smart and signed for that time off at one minute after midnight the year before. My chief heart anesthesia boss always took that week. But with a four year old, no daycare, and single parenting, I needed that time off. Well, the boss asked me, "are you going to be in town?" we'll yes, I was poor (worked part time) and staying with my family. She sneakily made a trip to Pakistan, assigning me heart call! I had switched with a friend, but due to politics this friend almost bailed. I persuaded this friend all mornin and then had to justify everything to another boss that hated the friend but had invited me to dinner with the family Christmas Eve.
I am so glad I fought for that. My friend, who is not Christian, spent "the worst Christmas ever" on a case that took nine hours and ended with a death in the OR.
You see, with shared custody, that was both my first Christmas Day with our son since infancy, and the last one on Earth my father ever had.
Where is the Reiki in all of this? I am at work today. I have had every other night call since last Monday. I slept in my bed at home Tuesday and Saturday nights. I am not fighting it. I see the good in how we comfort each other by bringing outside food to share in and asking each other's holiday stories on the Labor Deck. I trust that even though the cafeteria is closed, I will eat. I had honey baked ham and French baguette and fresh Starbucks coffee for breakfast. I had the free institutionalized tasteless turkey lunch. And I brought leftovers for dinner. In a way, work is a blessing, for a holiday while our son is with dad can be quite painful.
Today I walked in the sun, in deep meditation, for thirty minutes. Instead of the noise and bustle, I went in. through Reiki I feel connected to my loved ones. I know I am eternal, there is more than this. And the clock...as I write this I have fourteen hours to go! : )))l
Spiritual growth is a wonderful investment. It is the one thing you can take with you. What once drove me to tearful existence as an intern, has become food for thought.
Letting go of expectations is a gift. Give it to yourself today. Merry Christmas!!!
And the clock