Here is the letter I sent my colleagues upon my retirement from active practice in December 2015.
For content relating to personal (non-medical) anecdotes
Most of my family and many of my closest friends call me a pessimist. I disagree. I believe I am a pro-active optimist, someone whose default is that things will work out in the end - but not automatically. Only if we do our part to ensure success.
When I challenge their characterization of me as a pessimist, the response is generally along the lines of: “You always assume the worst possible thing will probably occur.” But I am not assuming that at all.
“If there is some old friend you want to visit, don’t keep putting it off until it is suddenly too late.”
This was a line in an email from a college friend. It hit home.
When I moved to Maine in 1977 after my residency, I realized that I now lived about 20 minutes from the home town of someone who had had a huge impact on my life the summer after high school.
With the onset of the Covid pandemic, my in-person social interactions ground to a halt in March of 2020. Some of the things that stopped happening were dining out, live theater and movies, musical performances, in-person work in community organizations, time in the local library, attending live medical CME. Drastically restricted were things like personal interactions associated with relatively necessary tasks like shopping, medical and dental appointments and procedures, and automobile maintenance.
I was invited to a New Year's Eve Day gathering of some friends who have met annually for a couple decades or more, but who had not met during the pandemic. Our group number 25-30, all in our 70s now. The invitation said masks were 'welcome' but said nothing more about precautions. I was thrilled and excited, but also puzzled at the lack of mention of testing.
It’s not that far, really.
Just off my back deck and down the hill
Through what I still remember as pasture for our mare,
To the little wooden foot bridge o’er the stream.
No, it’s not that far in steps, though in full winter
When the snow is newly deep, the going is slow and makes you wish
You’d bothered with your snow shoes.
My family, friends, and colleagues know I speak out or act up when I see something I think is wrong. When asked why, my usual answer is that I was raised to examine and question things, to seek information, to make up my own mind, and to always behave in a way that is true to my values.
This explanation is true but incomplete, as it fails to convey my belief that silence is a form of acceptance and can be tantamount to endorsement. I offer an anecdote from my childhood as an illustration of what I mean.
Me (in my head): You should go for a run.
Me (in my head): But it's raining.
Me (in my head): What's your point?
Me (in my head): But it's raining.
Me (out loud): I should go for a run.
Spouse: Why don't you?
Me: It's raining.
Me: I used to like to run in the rain.
Spouse: What changed?
Me: I got older.
Spouse: But what changed about running in the rain.
Me: I don't relish discomfort anymore.
Pause...changes into running gear.
Me (back from run in the rain): That was great!
NOW is my answer to the question: “What are you doing these days?” I hope it helps me stay focused on doing more and dreaming less. My goal is a NOW post at least once a month.
It's been a busy and distracting 10 months. My lack of posts here reflects that. The dust has (mostly) settled and I plan to resume posting here, at least twice a month. I hope you will follow along.