In Defense Of The Frivolous Distraction

crispydoc Uncategorized 6 Comments

I was at a conferenceĀ  in Vegas last week when local manifestations of the global crisis occurred in rapid succession.

The day after I departed, our district announced that local schools would close for at least the next two weeks.

A day later, an older immunocompromised loved one was hospitalized with a viral pneumonia (thankfully not COVID). My loved one is back home recuperating as I write this.

Once home, the general theme of our world exploding has continued, with news outlets announcing that two emergency physicians were in critical condition for doing their job in fighting the pandemic.

My wife has a shift this week, and I have several this weekend. I lose sleep every night as I try to mentally rehearse the precise order of donning and doffing as if my life depended on it.

Details change daily: What is our testing capacity? Who gets tested? How long should worried patients self-quarantine as they await the results of tests that will take days to result? How do we balance the need for caution with the impact such time away from work will have on those at the economic margins of society?

Like most physician readers, the speed with which I receive emails (often containing contradictory guidance), updates, supply shortage alerts and further ominous news of the chaos ahead have rendered linear thought impossible.

We are cut off from our social support systems at precisely the moment we most need them.

My kids have handled it better than their parents. They have taken to knocking out their day's online assignments without prompting.

External and internal landscapes have converged, with dark clouds and rain in southern California mirroring the collective gloom as a beautiful place enters an ugly period.

So what can you do when the spring break family road trip you'd planned to canyon country in the southwest has to be scrapped, your son can't let energy out with his friends, and you have exactly an hour break between rainstorms?

Yesterday, my son and I walked down the road to an open field near our home and flew a kite for an hour. The occasional car driving past us honked in approval.

It was the best I've felt all week.

Sometimes frivolous distraction is what gets us through.

Is it insensitive to keep up a blog about something as superficially inconsequential as physician finance (and also, I hope, about living according to your values)?

My working assumption is you'll have options for pandemic overload from every other information outlet in your life.

If I can bake a few warm and crusty loaves for you to eat when you need bread and circus, I'll happily fill that role (and give you a pass on the carbs).

At some point this week, you will need nothing more desperately than to fly a figurative kite and trade reality on the ground for a brief escape.

To all docs, nurses, respiratory therapists, EMTs, healthcare personnel and others who risk your well-being to care for our communities, a sincere thank you.

When you need a break, I hope tiny blogs like this one can offer mental sanctuary.

Comments 6

  1. That CD is what it means to be a good Dad.

    This week my daughter moved out to live with her boyfriend’s family. I’m quarantined with my wife by choice. Self quarantine is my contribution to restoring order to chaos. The one thing I can do is not get frivolously sick and not put my wife at risk. My kid is effectively locked down at her BF. Their fam is 7 kids and she fits in as another daughter so she chose an environment where she can live her life and hopefully survive while not going crazy. If she lived here and couldn’t go out she’d go crazy. If she goes out she risks my quarantine so she made a logical choice. She is 21 and I raised her to live by logic justice and kindness, and so she does, so I respect her decision and explicitly told her so. I’m scared for my daughter’s safety. It’s not easy to let go of attempting to control things you can’t control, and it’s imperative to control correctly and dispassionately those which you can control. Once you do what you can, there is time for leisure. We are used to hot and cold running leisure and feel gypped when our leisure is curtailed, but that feeling soon becomes gratitude when we realize the blessing of owning any leisure. I sure as hell wouldn’t want to be living in an ICU.

    Regardless of how it is measured volatility reflects the difference between the world as we imagine it to be and the world that actually exists. We will only prosper if we relentlessly search for nothing but the truth, otherwise the truth will find us through volatility. If the search for truth (living in the world that actually exists) is the goal, then it can also be the fun.

    1. Post

      I hope that when my kids need to make some similar, difficult choice the way your daughter did, I am able to handle it the way you have.

      I intubated my first COVID patient a couple of days ago, spoke to this man with an oxygen sat in the 80s, went outside in what must have seemed like sci-fi equipment to explain to his wife, worried and waiting in her car, what we planned to do and why. Both were lucid and completely on board, and also in tears.

      It was my first insight into what lies ahead, and it broke something in me to get that glimpse.

      Gratitude is precisely what I felt returning home after yesterday’s shift, kids shifting between bickering and playing with one another, wife holding the fort down (she’d worked a shift earlier in the week and faced her own concerns).

      It’s a demoralizing experience to be in harm’s way; it’s also meaningful and important to care for those who need it so critically.

      I’m scared to become a liability to my family and bring illness home, but trying to balance that with an ability to bring something to the table when it’s most needed.

      I’m so relieved that you provisioned and started your self-quarantine before the rest of the world (myself included) realized what we were dealing with. I’m grateful as ever to hear your thoughts, contrarian and otherwise, as they help me refine and redefine my pursuit of the truth.

      Stay safe, my friend.

  2. Frivolous distraction? They’re still your kids; you’re still their dad. Needs other than viral vigilance must still be met. Flying a kite sounds perfect šŸ™‚

    Like many physicians, I’ve been fielding questions from friends and family and doing my best to clarify points of confusion. A cousin of mine asked me to watch a video claiming to teach a method that would “cure” the coronavirus. It involved breathing hot air from a hairdryer (!). He was hopeful but skeptical and wanted my take on it. Of course, it was all complete BS, but presented in such a way as to be quite convincing to the lay person.

    After responding to my cousin I decided to show the video to our kids. Their reactions were fascinating and satisfyingly skeptical, but most importantly it was a great opportunity to talk about critical thinking and skills in assessing new information.

    It’s not kite flying weather up here in Canada yet, so this was our frivolous distraction. Stay well CD. All the best from your friends up north.

    1. Post

      Ultimate teachable moment! I can see in my mind’s eye sitting around with your sons and applying a bit of Socratic method after watching the video together.

      We’ve also had to be the bad cops, setting right disinformation sometimes spread by family members who are trying to help.

      Grateful to know you and the family are staying engaged and learning. I have this sense that in one capacity or another one of your sons will take up the ambivalent call and be there for us in our time of need when we age and could use the help.

      Grateful to you for the visit, and sorry you were inadvertently flagged as spam by the algorithm. Perhaps the computer saw breathing from a hair dryer and surmised a surreptitious reference to sex?

    1. Post

      Thanks, Xray. Appreciate your specialty’s support during these trying times – and given the wide denominator we simply haven’t documented – we are all feeling apprehensive in every part of our lives. Stay safe, my friend.

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