Thursday, October 10, 2013

What I Do For Love

The Writer's Journey  Roadmap
Laura Davis
“Use what talents you have; the woods would have little music if no birds sang their song except those who sang best.”
— Reverend Oliver G. Wilson

Tell me about something you love to do, but aren’t necessarily good at. Tell me about this activity in detail so I can love it as much as you do.

I always strived to be the very best wife and homemaker possible. I made superior efforts by ironing everything, giving my husband a choice of meals each night, I cooked all weekend to prepare for the week. But I feel kids are not educated on how to be a wife or husband, when it comes to the technical aspects of marriage like finances, childrearing, distribution of duties and learning how to compromise. I didn’t know how to be a good girlfriend in that I was a victim of that time between the white picket fence era and women burning their bras and breaking through the glass ceiling. I expected the boyfriend to (want to) be with me all the time. From high school I was on the marriage gravy train. I have actually sent my high school sweetheart an apology for putting such pressure on him and guilt if he was not when he was not with me.
I loved my profession in medicine. I prided myself on treating my patient’s with as much knowledge as I could hold, and I was proud of how I treated them as people. That is my badge of honor. So how did I fail? Simply, with each moment someone suffered and every life lost, I failed. Certainly, there are the maladies we cannot control but, nonetheless, I always wanted to be better.

Laura Davis

Hi Nancy, I love the juxtaposition of your love of homemaking with the pressures and intensity of medical practice. Do most doctors feel they fail when someone dies? Isn’t death the natural end of life for all of us?

Nancy Qualls

Hi Laura,
No, most doctors/medical professionals do not feel they have failed when someone dies. There is so much education we have to take, and the technology available is amazing. We don’t actually fail our patients, I over-dramatized our feelings of disappointment…but it is not disappointment…and it isn’t really failure…it is a feeling so hard to describe. We walk away from death with sadness for the family and that we could not save the patient, although in many cases the death can be a God-send for something we mortals cannot save.
One thing I wanted to describe was the difficulty women of my era, 1960′s/70′s, have. Our mother’s bring us up to believe we will have the house and family, and our husband’s will take care of us (so we really don’t need to get a degree) versus society expecting us to get a degree, have a career AND successfully run our home and children. We were sitting right on top of the white picket fence

Lee Xanthippe

Wow, very interesting–the way this piece went through the different eras in a way–the different roles for women and how the roles impact men in that first section–enjoyed the openness of the detail of wanting the man or boyfriend to be there all the time.
I felt the trying in this piece, the succeeding–the badge of honor, and also the pain of not being able to do more while trying to do more or do better.
Thank you for posting this piece!


Nancy- I love how you hold up your medical career and your career as a homemaker next to each other. It’s hard to do that without judging one or the other but you managed it. It was sweet how you ironed everything and gave your husband a choice. Very romantic. Ilana


Thank you for sharing this beautiful comparison of time and career. You did an amazing job of it. I believe that as true humans we always want to do and be better.
Mary Carlson
Ah, my heart pings a little reading this. I hear a striving for perfection in both paragraphs: perfection in homemaking, and perfection in medicine. That common thread comes through clearly…
And the tragic aspect of this is that your striving to be the best feels very marred by inevitable “failures.” Being a good wife meant you weren’t the “good girlfriend.” A patient’s suffering or death becomes a sign of failure.
I would love to see you expand this, and really examine the cost of perfection. Ok, I feel a lot of projection on my part happening here….and I apologize. But, wow, can I identify!
Nancy Qualls

Thank you, I am humbled by all the responses I am receiving here.
I will write a more detailed piece. I have always wanted to write more about the era I grew up. Our grandmother’s and mother’s were homemaker’s. They lived within the ‘white picket fence’. Then we had Women’s Lib and suddenly we were expected to have a degree, a career and a home. The first half of my life was within the ‘white picket fence’ and then I was caught sitting on it.
Adrienne Drake
As a physician myself I could identify with much of what you say here in terms of being caught between two worlds as women emerged from homebodies to professionals very quickly. I too was caught on that cusp and did not mange to balance things nearly as successfully as you seem to have. However, I can not relate to your feeling that you failed with each moment someone suffered or lost their life. You are taking on way too much responsibility for that. You clearly did your best and I hope you don’t let those feelings tarnish in any way how you look back on your career, which was otherwise you badge of honor. Thank you for sharing your heartfelt story.
  • Dr. Drake,
    Happily, I was not tarnished by, what I described as, an obsessive tendency to worry about everyone’s pain. When I was at work, I definitely was focused on all my patients, all of the time. And, like you I am sure, I wanted to take care of all the pains and maladies. But I did feel bad when I was not successful.
    When I retired, I left knowing that I did the best I knew how…that I educated myself ad-nauseum. When I left work…I left work. Well…okay…there were the times I would call the ICU in the middle of the night to check someone’s blood gas results…I couldn’t help it, I had to know so I could go back to sleep.
    Now days I am happily retired, beta-reading and working on my first book.

Nancy, this felt like this could be a book. There was so much information and feeling in these paragraphs. I wanted to know more. Thank you.

  • Judy
    Nancy, interesting piece that show the difficulty of ‘walking between the worlds’ of homemaker, devoted wife/mother and demanding career of medicine. Thank you for sharing.


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