Eighteen years of practice is now condensed to my final four days seeing patients in the practice I built. While I am not bitter about what has happened (in fact, a large part of me is delighted), there is a sense of finality in this as one of my life’s major passings. This has been the stage on which I’ve been asked to perform, standing beside the stories of people’s lives and living out my own drama as theirs unfolded. This is where my life most intersected others, where I saw pain and joy, birth and death, suffering and triumph. I helped these people and learned from them in the process. I was teacher and student, helper and helped, healer and healed.
Whether I’ve profited most or gave myself dry (I’ve felt both often), it has been what I’ve done. Now I walk off of that stage onto another one, still dimly lit with little substance. I walk from the known to the unknown, the familiar to the hypothetical. I have great ideas, but now those ideas must become reality, and that reality must work well enough to justify leaving what I have left. Enthusiasm and innovation don’t pay the bills or heal the sick; it takes work.
A friend called me “courageous” in taking this step, which may be true. But courage doesn’t exist without fear, and fear is a lot of what I feel at this point. Yes, I do think I am doing the right thing, but that is no guarantee of success. Many good ideas have been dashed against the rocks of life for many different reasons. Courage is overrated, as is faith. Both courage and faith call to step out in fear and ignorance, trusting in something that isn’t visible at the moment. It’s not fun.
So I take a deep breath as I enter into this last week of my old life. I pray for the serenity to accept what is, not fear what I can’t do anything about, and live in the moment I’ve been given.
Rob Lamberts, MD, is a primary care physician practicing somewhere in the southeastern United States. He blogs regularly at More Musings (of a Distractible Kind)where this post first appeared. For some strange reason, he is often stopped by strangers on the street who mistake him for former Atlanta Braves star John Smoltz and ask “Hey, are you John Smoltz?” He is not John Smoltz. He is not a former major league baseball player. He is a primary care physician.