Power Out: Silver Lining Hunting

This is a story about expectations and circumstances beyond our control.

The power went out on campus last week.

I was in the pool. It was 6 am, so it was pretty dark. They wouldn’t let us stay in because the lifeguards wouldn’t have been able to see us if we drowned. Fair enough.

This is not the first time this has happened. The power going out, not the pool part.

The last time I was on my sub-internship on pediatrics and it was about 4 am. I was on call overnight and it had been plenty busy. There was a crazy thunderstorm outside and the hospital may or may not have been struck by lightning. I’m not trying to start any rumors, I’m just telling you from where I was sitting by the window on the fifth floor, that’s what it looked like.

Residents were furiously trying to finish history & physicals on the new patients so they’d be ready for when the day teams who come in at 6. It’s a sinking feeling when you’re typing along and that screen goes dark. Not to mention if you’re sitting in a room without auxiliary lighting. I tripped over at least 2 backpacks. Fortunately what had already been typed up on the patient saves to the server, backup generators come on for ventilators and things like that so that patients are okay, and our biggest problem was finding some computers that didn’t require the main power so we could keep working.

Point is, it worked out.

Let me preface this next part by saying that I realize my dilemma with this recent incident is small. Thousands of appointments had to be cancelled, patient care gets much more difficult without electronic records given our current system, and I’m sure there were lots of legitimate problems to deal with.

Back to my important workout problem.

I was kind of frustrated. My first reaction was not the peaceful “make the best of it” reaction I had hoped for. I had gotten a bit of a later start on a swim morning than I would have liked. I was only 8 laps in, and had been excited about it being a swim workout day. When forced to get out of the pool, I headed home and resolved to run instead. It’s only a few miles back to my apartment, but in that short distance, I found myself getting angry.

“I can’t believe I drove all the way here and now I’m just driving back to run around my neighborhood. I could’ve saved that gas.”

“This is my own stupid fault, I would have been almost done if I’d gotten there at 5:30 like I planned instead of sleeping that extra 20 minutes.”

“I’m wet and chlorine-coated for nothing.”

“This totally throws off my morning timeline. I was supposed to be studying pretty soon. Do I skip the workout altogether? What’s worse? Stupid power.”

“Also I’m starting to get hungry. This is going to delay breakfast. I hate that. I want my oatmeal.”

And so on.

And as I cycled down this path of whiny self-pity and frustration, I heard myself and realized none of those thoughts would make anything better.

I had an expectation: being able to swim and complete my workout at a certain time.

It was not met because of circumstances beyond anyone’s control. So I took my frustration and went on a run.

Here’s what I found:

Forcing me to go later meant it was light outside and I saw a lot more beauty on the route than I expected. Also it gave me that push to feel like I was a little pressed for time – which shoved me past my usual procrastinating ways and led me to actually get things done today.

Here’s what I’m trying to say: There’s something good to be found in all the things that happen that I can’t control and when I look for it, things get better. 

I’m not going to draw any direct parallels to medicine, but I might think on it.

Wait, I lied.

In this time when I’m about to start interviewing at programs and traveling around the country, I’ve no doubt there will be numerous logistical circumstances beyond my control. It’s probably good I’m practicing my silver lining hunting with something tiny like an early morning swim.