Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Lost In Tune

Spartacus looking about as concerned as he was in my driverless dream.
I just woke up from the most bizarre dream. In it, Spartacus and I were retrieving our car from a valet parking service. I was sitting in the passenger seat, fiddling around with my phone, trying to find some music to channel through the car stereo. Spartacus appeared to be rooting around in the trunk for something, and as I turned my head to see what he was up to, I noticed a giant pair of speakers perched in the back seat of the car. Some really awesome music suddenly started blasting out of them. I can't recall what it was, but it definitely needed to be cranked up. Lost in tune, I didn't notice the car was moving or realize that Spartacus was sitting in the trunk until we hit top speed out on the freeway. I could only see his head and part of his face, and he didn't seem concerned at all about what was going on. He had this placid look, like he was enjoying the breeze blowing his hair back or something. Meanwhile, I'm panicking and yelling at him in complete disbelief about what I was seeing in the rear view mirror, frantically undoing my seatbelt, scooting my ass over to take control of the wheel, completely astonished that we hadn't collided with anyone yet.

That driverless car dream is a perfect metaphor for how life's been feeling recently: kinda crazy and a little out of control. Where to begin?

My house, my albatross. But, hey, the yard looks great!
Back in May, Spartacus and I decided to put our rental houses on the market. We never wanted to be landlords in the first place...Wall Street, the mortgage financiers, the investment bankers and whoever else was involved in orchestrating the crash of 2008 decided our fate for us. Thanks a pantload, assholes! I'm still trying to get my head around how the banks all got bailed out, while our house values are simultaneously plummeting without a corresponding reduction in mortgage balance. After trying without success to sell my house between 2010 and 2012, I had no choice but to rent it out. Sure, having renters provides income. But, that income gets taxed, and the way things have worked out over the last couple of years, being a landlord has been more of a tax liability than an asset. Just like the poor bastard in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, that house has become my albatross. God knows, I've fantasized about burning the damn thing down. (Oops, should I have said that out loud? Wouldn't surprise me at all if the insurance adjusters were monitoring my computer along with the NSA).

Chester & I helped rescue this bird yesterday. I need such luck!
Fortunately, Spartacus's house sold almost overnight. I still can't believe his house sold before mine. After having mine listed for a couple of months with the same realtor who managed the property while my tenants lived there, I decided to switch agents. My listing wasn't getting any action. I was constantly having to pull teeth with the guy regarding showings. He really didn't seem to care about getting the place sold. I'd admired how aggressive and responsive Spartacus's agent was while his house was on the market, so I listed the house with her. Definitely a wise decision. We determined that the house would show better a) if it was staged and b) if the yard was shored up, so I employed the services of an interior decorator and Spartacus and I worked on the landscaping ourselves. So far, we've had decent traffic, but no offers. Last week, we reduced the price considerably, and I learned last night that there's a buyer who's very interested in the house. Maybe this'll be my lucky break. One less albatross.

Lunch with Naureen turned out to be more than just soup and nuts.
Two weeks ago, I resigned from my job, so there's that. I really hadn't been looking to change jobs. Back in July, I was having lunch with my girlfriend, Naureen. She completed her anesthesiology pain fellowship several years ago and is currently in practice with a mutual friend of ours from residency. I was reminiscing about how much I'd enjoyed my time on Emory's Acute Pain Service when I was on faculty there. She was like, "You should come work for us!" A couple of weeks later, I got a call from her practice's COO, went in for an interview, and was pretty much offered a position on the spot. It's somewhat of a departure from my current work as an anesthesiologist. Right now, I'm either giving anesthesia myself or supervising anesthetists. In this new job, I'll divide my time equally between evaluating pain clinic patients for interventional procedures and giving sedation for those procedures. I'm looking forward to being back in the pain management arena. Chronic pain patients are an especially challenging lot, so I've got my work cut out for me. What's really great about this job is that it will afford me an opportunity to board-certify in pain medicine without having to go the fellowship route. Once I get settled in, I'm going to enroll in that acupuncture for physicians course I had hoped to have completed by this stage in my career. Who knows, maybe one day, I'll be my own boss?

Everyone's much happier when I'm minding my own business.
Back to my dream. The most difficult aspect of my day to day reality is the fact that my sons have cystic fibrosis (CF) and there's nothing I can do to fix it for them. I try not to let it nag me, but it's always in the back of my mind, an albatross of a different feather. The news from their latest clinic visits hasn't exactly been cheery. Rory recently had to undergo a "tune up" because his lung functions were down. When he texted me from the clinic to let me know he was going on IV antibiotics, I sort of lost it, expressing my frustration over being so helpless with regard to his disease. He responded back, "Your sense of helplessness smothers me at times." Wow. Clearly, he needed to get that off his chest and I guess I needed to hear it. I spent the rest of that morning in tears, feeling like an ass, feeling sorry for myself, but mostly just feeling overwhelmed. I'm his mom. And, moms are supposed to fix everything, right? Not to mention the fact that I'm also a physician who's responsible for fixing people's health problems. It's exceedingly hard to acknowledge my limitations. I wish it were me that had CF instead of my sons. But, Rory is an adult. He wants to navigate the waters of chronic disease management for himself, without my well-intended parental interference. Stepping back from this interaction with him, I realized just how insidious and intrusive worrying about things over which I have no control can be for everyone involved. I'm glad Rory was able to be so brutally honest with me.

Nick & Rory, in their element.
Like the driverless car in my dream, I'm not sure where I'm going with this post. What's felt like veering off course over the last few months may very well be unrecognized plasticity, righting myself by relinquishing the wheel. The time and effort I put into fretting over houses and jobs and health is better spent lost in tune, enjoying the ride, and trusting in life's mystery. I know my house will eventually sell. Since the overgrown ivy in the backyard is the only real reservation the most recent interested buyer expressed about purchasing my house, I've got a yard guy lined up to clear it away. Hopefully, that will appease her. I'm filling out mountains of credentialing paperwork for my new job, which I should be starting in the next few weeks. In the meantime, I've been reacquainting myself with the focused physical exam for evaluating chronic pain, reviewing the neurochemistry and pathophysiology of different pain syndromes, and refreshing my working knowledge of various diagnostic and therapeutic nerve blocks and interventions. No matter how much I prepare, negotiating the learning curve that lies ahead is still going to be a matter of getting my feet wet on the job. Rory is feeling better after his IV antibiotics, although his lung functions didn't improve that much. His doc is going to keep him on the antibiotics for another week. Maybe it'll make a difference. What's important is that he and Nick are living life on their own terms, making amazing music together and independently managing their health issues. They're so lucky to be musicians. I think music's probably been more therapeutic for their bodies and spirits than any other available treatment. Can't argue with that.

I'll leave you with their latest song, "Asklepieion Hiss." This is the first time Rory's composed music around lyrics. The lyrics are actually a poem that my ex-husband--Nick and Rory's father--wrote. In the poem, he's imploring Asklepius, the ancient Greek god of medicine, to heal his sons' cystic fibrosis. It's absolutely beautiful. I hope you'll have a listen, and maybe even find yourself lost in tune.

Prayer to the Solar Storm
by Jim Landt

Awake, awake my golden snake
Coiled tight, deep sleeping in my Soul
Let in thy light, with healing bite
To airtight pathways clogged with coal
Awake and kiss, asklepieion hiss
Thy strike breeds fear in submerged swarms
Connect above, Apollo's love
Streaming down to cleanse my forms
Speak truth to right my Earthqueen's blight.
Bring order to my chaos deep.
Thy photon spray and cosmic ray
Yield healing dreams in each night's sleep.