here. now.

March 25, 2021

I was let go this week. “We want you to know that this has nothing to do with you as a person. You are such a kind person. But we just think that you are not the right fit for this busy practice. We need someone who is faster, who can keep up with the pace of all the doctors here, and who can multitask with the needs we have. Do you have any questions?”

I stammered through my tears. “Um. I guess I just . . . I don’t know. I, well, I wonder if I can say goodbye to Dr. M?”

I’d been called away from her, via text on the app we use for work communication, to go to the supervisor’s office. Everything was in-the-middle—my patient vitals, notes about what to follow-up on, paperwork to be scanned . . . a few minutes earlier I’d commented to the nurse whose station was next to mine, that I’d had a “first”—an insurance claim I’d submitted had been approved. I was able to call the patient and tell her that she had coverage for her medication. “I did something right,” I commented. She chuckled and said, “How long have you been her again? 3 weeks, right? Give yourself some grace!” I smile back at her, from underneath my mask. “Thank you,” I said. I realize later that in the flurry of this job time has passed way faster than I was aware of in any given moment -I’d actually already been there for over a month now!

Ironically, a few hours after that, I was to return to tell her, though tears, that I was leaving. Not fast enough . . . not good enough.

I saw the petite frame of Dr. M, as she dashed towards the next patient waiting in the room. Seeing me out of the corner of her eye, she stopped, veered towards me, reaching for the blue paper I still held in my hand, waiting to give it to her. “Oh yes,” she said, “I need this, don’t I?” she shook her head at her forgetfulness, and took the paper from me, turning towards the room again and waving her arm for me to follow.

“Wait, Dr. M. No-I’m not coming with you.” She turned. “I’m leaving now. They let me go. I’m too slow . . .” I started to cry again.

She came towards me. “Sweet Anna,” she said, hugging me. “You know I was let go from my other hospital, 4 months ago, for not being fast enough—for not doing enough surgeries.” With her blue eyes peering closely into mine, she hugged me again. “You’ll find the right place. I know you will.”

Then she was gone, rushing back to attend to the waiting patient.

I left in a daze, blinking at the light of day that I’d grown accustomed to missing. So this is it. 

That night I attended a book club that some friends invited me to. It was our first meeting, and we had read The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. During the discussion, one friend mentioned the photos accompanying the book. I nearly interrupted her, excited to remember my own reaction to one of those photos. “She looks like me!” I thought, peering more closely at the black-and-white photo of a traveling librarian seated at the bedside of a hospital patient, book in hand. And she really did resemble me, as odd as it seems to say such a thing about oneself. With her expressive features and large nose, in profile, she looked like she could have been my great grandmother. Maybe she was, considering the unknown element of my family’s Appalachian roots . . .

In the days since then, still raw in the newness, I’ve tried to keep to routines to stay functional. I wonder if I should pause and reflect for a while … but am more inclined to try to get back on the horse and try to find another – better – fit. The fear, though (the inner voice that whispers “failure”) is that I’m just not good enough for anything; a temptation to wonder if I just faked it through the “real world” till now, and am old enough now that I just can’t cut it.

Clearly, this post is not a happy one. My perspective will no doubt change as time passes. And knowing that, I questioned whether or not to share this at all. I will probably continue to question it after hitting “publish.” So be it.

My first tulip bloomed this week. Yesterday I snapped this photo while on the phone with my sister, bragging about how warm and sunny it was (her weather at the time being significantly colder). At the time I was feeling relatively at peace. Today storms are raging and the sky is dark. My emotions are tempted to mirror that sky. I am tempted to brush it off, to argue it away, and to numb myself, in some form or fashion, from the pain. But instead, I choose to try to sit with that pain and ride it out.

So be it.


March 1, 2021

It is possible—perhaps human nature, even—to go quite some time forgetting parts of oneself that used to be deeply ingrained in the soul. That is what music is for me. Here in my “responsible” adulthood, I spend my days working long days, hitting the road at 7:00 in the morning and not leaving work until 6:00 most days. This world is a new one to me: a world where the urgent needs of the medical world mean that you do not simple decide that the work day is done and the time to go home has come. No—for here the needs pile up, one on top of the other, so that hours pass in a blur; and, just because you’re tired and your feet hurt and your brain is fuzzy, does not mean that anyone is going to say, “Hey—you need a break. You’ve worked a long day. Go home . . . “ No. More likely, you will simply be handed another task—another request. So you greet another patient. You take vitals. You test urine. You read a pregnancy test. You inject the medicine into the arm. You keep going . . .

There are moments in which your heart quickens at the joy of the task:

-the thrill of finding the baby’s heartbeat at the first try, and of hearing that rapid little heartbeat filling the room as your hand presses onto the large belly of a smiling mama-to-be.

-the relief on a teenager’s face when she realizes that the feared moment has already passed . . . for you have already inserted that needle and she didn’t even notice the prick

-the grateful eyes of a woman who realizes I have responded to her in her own language . . . her voice has been heard. She is understood, and not just an another voiceless foreigner.

Yes, there are moments.

But then there are other moments: moments in which you remember the deeper, truer parts of your soul. Moments when your soul swells with the kind of joy that lifts you to the heavens.

That, my friend, is the kind of joy this morning reminded me of. 

Something about leading worship shoots an arrow to one of the first places where I felt true joy. And maybe that’s the real reason that it means so much to me—the “first” of it. Because the older I get, the more I suspect that the mundane is just as significant as those “highs” that felt so powerful in my youth. Not to diminish the thrill, mind you—I do believe that we were created to feel the thrill of the great moments of life. But I also believe that we were created for the smaller things as well—and that the smaller pleasures are great in themselves.

So tonight I sit beside my husband, winding down before bed. We have an argument. We talk through it. “I’m sorry.” “Me too.” We smile at each other. We watch U2 music videos, inspired by this morning’s church service.

Yes. Seriously.

It was a thrilling joy to be lifting my voice in song this morning, harmonizing with other musicians.

And it is just as thrilling to be in my home tonight, in quiet harmony with my husband on this mild evening. Hope. Spring is coming.

I waited patiently for the Lord;
And He inclined to me,
And heard my cry.
 He also brought me up out of a horrible pit,
Out of the miry clay,
And set my feet upon a rock,
And established my steps.
 He has put a new song in my mouth—
Praise to our God;
Many will see it and fear,
And will trust in the Lord.
(Psalm 40: 1-3, NKJV)

*photos credit to my husband. One of seedlings that will soon be bringing yummy veggies to us thanks to his gardening genius. The other of our goat. Because she smiles for the camera. And because she supplies us with our daily milk ☺️