True Love is giving yourself away

One of the great things about having this blog is the freedom to write about various things that interest me at the moment. I might have an article about colon polyps next to an article about working out next to an article about how to get motivated to make lifestyle changes. Overall, my aim here is to present a balance of topics related to promoting good health.

If you’ve followed Retroflexions over the years, you have probably noticed a shift in the articles more towards the healthy living spectrum and less towards the nerdy science posts that I first started with. Not that I have anything against the nerdy science stuff, but lately I am just finding it more enjoyable to write about health and fitness. OK, I’ll just admit it: It’s also fun to post pictures of yogurt bowls and videos of my workouts on Instagram. I hope it motivates people to get moving, because if they see that their doctor can do it, then they should be able to try too!

However, there is a big difference between what you see on social media and reality. As they say, social media is just one big highlight reel of people’s lives, since most of us only post the best and most polished versions of ourselves for the world to see. You won’t find me posting a picture of myself sitting at my desk staring at the computer screen like a zombie, trying to complete my charts while eating trail mix for lunch. Instead, I will post a picture of my workout from earlier that morning with some inspirational message to “get out there and live your best life folks!”

But think about this: When I am at the gym at 6 AM on a Tuesday trying to keep my promise to myself to stay fit mentally and physically as I age, who is back home taking care of everything else, allowing me to walk out the door unencumbered, drive to the gym, and have my little moment of zen in the wee hours of the morning?

woman working in chaos

Who makes sure my gym clothes are clean, and my work clothes are clean, and there is healthy food in the fridge?

Who gets the kids on the bus every morning? Who packs their lunches and their backpacks, and makes sure there is a little note in their lunchbox from Mommy? Who goes to the store and buys the food that they take to school each week, and makes sure that they are wearing sneakers on gym days, and that their library books are returned on Tuesdays, and that their permission slips are signed, and that their school projects are done on time?

Who rushes home from work to get the kids off the bus, then shuttles them to various activities and makes sure their homework is done, and their PJs are clean, and they are bathed each night, and their hair is brushed, and that they are read a bedtime story?

Who runs out to the drug store to get toothpaste, the supermarket to get bread, and the mall to buy a birthday present for one of the children’s friends? In between errands, who throws a load of laundry in the machine, or folds a load of clothes from the dryer, or pays some bills online, or cleans up the holiday decorations, or takes out the garbage, or does yet another load of laundry?

Who handles dinner every night, either by cooking something delicious or by figuring out what everyone wants to eat when everyone is cranky and hungry? Who sets the table, empties the dishwasher, and usually gets stuck doing the dishes most of the time too?

Who makes sure we have cards and presents for every friend and family members birthday? Who makes sure we have something to bring to a dinner party, or bakes a cake for a holiday get-together, or sends flowers to a friend for a special occasion, or reminds me to call my mother on her birthday?

Who makes sure that the kids are growing mentally and emotionally? Who works hard every day to give the children all the tools they need to turn into successful adults? Who sometimes can’t sleep at night because she is worried that we are not doing enough for the kids, that maybe they’re missing out on something, or that we could be doing better for them?

Who works a demanding job as a professional despite doing all of the above stuff? Who has work stress and meetings and emails and phone calls to return just like I do? Who usually ends up getting called when our daughter has a fever at school, or our son has a bellyache, and needs to come to get them in the middle of her work day? Who sits up typing reports for work and sending even more emails well after everyone is asleep or on the weekends?

Who gets called from their warm bed at 1 AM when out daughter had a nightmare, or our son has the sniffles, or just because the kids miss their Mommy and it’s dark and they thought they heard a noise? Who gets water for a coughing kid at midnight, or gets the Tylenol at 4 AM when someone has a fever, and who changed and washed all the bed sheets for a few years in a row when the little ones were not quite potty trained and there was yet another accident in the middle of the night?

Who is also always there to talk to, to lean on, to vent to, to give advice, to put things in perspective, and to generally provide support and encouragement for all of my various endeavors? Who made me realize that I must run towards my dreams, even if that path takes our family away from the mundane trappings of a safe job in corporate medicine. Who taught me that my happiness and mental well-being actually matter? Who was right about all this and more for so many years?

Of course, the answer to all of the above questions is “my wife!” She somehow does all of this and more, and I truly don’t know how she can do so much for so many people on a daily basis.

To put things in perspective, here is a list of all my daily responsibilities:

  1. Go to work and don’t go out of business.
  2. Write an occasional article on this site, or post some quasi-inspirational stuff on social media*.

*(not an actual responsibility, more of an unnecessary hobby)

Sure, this is an oversimplification. I do try hard to get home early enough to read to my daughter at bedtime, or drive the kids to an activity or two per week, or go food shopping once every month or two. At least twice a year, I will occasionally do something that is unpleasant and needs to get done, like deal with some noisy vermin in the attic, or unclog a stopped drain, or do some manual labor around the house. A few times per week I will either do the dishes or unload the dishwasher…one time I even did both in the same day! Whenever I can, I try to foster the emotional and intellectual well-being of our loinfruit, and try to set a positive example for them whenever possible, or at least once every month, give or take. Oh yeah, I have even started picking up my own dry cleaning too!

The point is, I basically have one big task to focus on. One well-defined and finite task–work. I have a place to go to do this work (the office), a fairly narrow job description (take care of people with digestive issues), and a support staff at work (my employees) to help me accomplish this mission. Sure, the hours are longer than I would like, but truthfully the hours are not much worse than many non-medical people have to work either.

However, all this wellness stuff and working out and healthy living shenanigans that I am so fond of would not even be possible without the extensive support of my wife. She keeps our whole family machine humming along, all while running her own life too. Well, what is left of her life at least, which can be found in the time between the endless loads of laundry, making sure the kids have brushed their teeth, looking for someones missing shoes while the bus is coming in two minutes, and worrying about her own career too.

So getting back to the point of this article…if you want to make a change in your life, if you want to get into fitness, or eat healthier, or lose weight, it is not really as simple as I make it look in whatever cherry-picked picture I posted on Instagram today. Sure, you do actually have to do some hard work, but just getting to the point where you can even focus on “healthy living” usually takes a great deal of support and some sacrifice from another person, or even several people.

If you have big goals, find someone in life that supports you and helps you reach your potential. Likewise, make sure to support your partner however you can too. Mutual support leads to synergistic growth, that is, the two of you will be better as a team than either one of you are alone. If you want to make something of yourself, give as much of yourself as you can to the people you love!

Dear Noreen,

I love you, but who wouldn’t love you? You are so easy to love. The real surprise is that you love me back.

I can never repay you for everything that you do for me and our little family. We are so lucky to have you, and your hard work and sacrifice is never taken for granted.

With love and so much gratitude, Fred