New Year

The week between Christmas and New Year's is filled with silence. The roads are quiet, the shops are empty, and the hallways of the hospital echo only echo with the scuffle of my shoes. The Emergency department continues to churn through patients but everyone is smiling, food appears on every available surface and even the patients seem cheerful. Everybody says hello in the corridor. My habitual smiles at passers-by are finally returned. For a few days it feels like people are engaging in humanity.

It's a week where the community switches off from stress - from work and the mortgage and material need - and focuses instead on friendships, family and the future. For a week, we forget our worries. For a week, life is simple. We go for long walks and eat good food and sift through our internal struggles.

I worked Christmas. And I worked New Years. And the days in between. And you know what? It was great. The staff were lighthearted; the patients were oddly accepting. Some even wanted to stay in for Christmas. It's the happiest I've ever seen the hospital. Nobody wants to feel sick over the festive period.

And in the quiet, I paused.

I had time to sit with my patients for five minutes. I'd ask them a thousand questions on their jobs while jabbing them with needles. I had time to read through notes and do some health-related reading. Which, on reflection, made me a lot more patient with everybody. It was, for the first time in a long time, a real pleasure to come to work.

When work life is less stressful, home life is more productive. I found myself reading novels and listening to more study materials while showing the gym who really is boss. And for a week my mind churned. For a week, it felt like I'd set my brain up to de-frag in exactly the way I used to watch the computer's green and red bars filter across the screen.

I came to quite a few conclusions in that week.

We are all poor communicators. Sure, some are better than others. But we all need to pause and reflect on how we communicate. We have these monologues at each other rather than starting productive dialogues. I need to work on this.

We need to stop trying and start doing. We all try to eat well/exercise/learn languages/spend more time with our loved ones/start a new hobby/keep the house clean. We succeed at only a handful of things in life. Trying isn't a thing. You either did it, or wanted to do it but failed. Nobody says "I tried the physics exam but didn't go my way." No, you did the physics exam and failed. Which is okay. Physics is hard. And you can sit it again if you repeat the course. Failing once doesn't preclude future attempts. Stop trying. Start. Getting. Things. Done. Life is what you make time for. Choose your path wisely.

The things we want most in life are often the things we hesitate most about. If you want a brownie a little bit, it's easy to get your hands on a brownie. And eat it. Issue solved. But if you want to clear the air on a long-held marital dispute, that's hard. If you want to start a new job, move to a new country...that's hard. That involves sacrifice. I know I'll chat easily with bosses in fields in which I hold little career-interest. Because there's little risk of making a career faux pas. But when it comes to bosses in my area of interest, I'll stall on conversation lest I make some terrible error of conversation etiquette. If you want something in life, make moves to do it. Staying in the centre is easy. Search for the edges. Take the road less travelled.

It's easy to lose focus. Facebook, twitter, instagram, phone calls, text messages, the whole internet...they all provide easy distraction and endless (yet mindless) entertainment. If you want to achieve something, you need to work out how to shut out these distractions for a while. An hour of solid work, a day without distractions. Remove yourself from environments that encourage mindless time-wasting. I definitely need to work on this.

Do something meaningful every day. It doesn't matter if that's taking an extra five minutes to care about someone, or to work on one of your life goals, or getting down on your hands and knees to plant a tree. Make your day count. It only happens once.

We need to get comfortable with our imperfections. We all have guilty pleasures. We all have parts of our bodies we don't like. We all have emotional baggage. You are not your addiction to coffee, your lop-sided ears or your fear of public speaking. These are just parts of you. You can work on them if you'd like to change. But they're part of you now. Recognise them. Embrace them. Decide if you want to be different. It's okay, nobody's perfect.

We need to get lost sometimes. Physically and emotionally. Most of us drive/walk/take the bus to work every day, the same way, at about the same time. We go through the motions of life and forget to explore outside our comfort zone. Changing your route may waste precious time but you can try a different cafe in the morning or walk to the next bus stop. And if that doesn't appeal, make sure to explore on your days off. There's more to see in the world. Widen your horizons.

This is 2016. It's a New Year. And everybody is in the mood for change.

I'm ready.

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