Saturday, September 8, 2018

Residency Woes and Triumphs

When I think of the word “residency” I cringe and shrink back a little bit and feel some tender tightness in my throat. That’s pretty much how those three years felt. Cringing, and shrinking so much I wished I would disappear more often than I would like to admit, and a tender tightness in my throat that kept me suffering in quiet darkness most the time.

It’s not fun to write a post about a season that was so dark and dismal at times. It isn’t the pretty picture of “I’ve got my crap at least moderately together” I would prefer to portray. Sometimes I think, if I just could have done this, or just could have done that, maybe it could have been different?

Perhaps.

Perhaps not.

Maybe, it was just a really difficult season.

It doesn’t matter now.

Thankfully, it was just a season. Seasons change.

I remember when I first started to get a taste of what lay ahead for me as a wife with a husband on the medical training journey. Squire was visiting me at my parents’ ward (congregation) the Summer before we were married. My mom pointed out to us from behind, the family whose bread-winning husband who had just completed residency to become a medical doctor.

The scene stretched as a silent horror film before my eyes. His eyes had bags under them that stooped to the floor. I caught a glance between his and her eyes that looked like needles had been exchanged. They looked miserable and beyond tired yet with just enough energy to potentially snap at each other if the wrong word was spoken. They sat with a few ragamuffin red heads between them. Their posture was slumped. Their body language toward each other was cold and deliberately dismissive of each other. There was some silent treatment going on I surmised. The whole scene was upsetting, but seeing the red-headed children between them was as if an omen of misery in a future day was being passed onto my red-headed fiance and myself. I cried for the rest of that meeting. And I didn’t stop for quite some time.

Are you sure? Are you sure you want to do this?!”

Yes, he was sure.

It is what he felt God was calling him to do.

And so, by miraculous means we made it to medical school with our last dime earned from Plasma-donation money and the inspired donations of other angels.

Medical school. That was a hard time, too, but mostly it was dear to us. Our friends were so good to us. Our ward was like family. I cried and I mourned the loss of the close regular contact I had with so many wonderful friends when we moved at the end of those 4 years.

Thank goodness for phones!

Missing my friends, yet also excited for the next step on our journey I jumped right in to my life in Pocatello. I was bound and determined to make sure that when I left that town, by golly, I would be crying to leave it, too! I wanted to make a difference! To suck the marrow out of the life I had to live in this town! To explore, connect, and serve and grow!

The day we moved in to our home – the first we had purchased – it seemed like it was going to be all we hoped it would be. Many families came to welcome us in. We received meals to ease the transition of moving to a new place.

We anxiously hosted the first engagement for our residency class at our home. One of the children of one of the residents’ families decided to climb down a windowsill instead of a ladder off a landing in the playhouse and needed stitches. It cast a damper in the air on the party and on my spirits.

Despite this, I tried to initiate several other events to engage a sense of togetherness with others in the residency after that. For several, none responded or showed. For another, only one kind stalwart came. I gorged myself on the homemade pretzels I had made to serve the crowd that wasn’t coming. Another time I hosted a bread-making class/playgroup. I discerned a glance that was exchanged between two of my guests at that event and knew my name and views were not safe in their mouths. This was confirmed at a residency Christmas party several months later. I could detect that quiet contempt at every residency event I attended for some time even when it wasn’t obvious to every residency participant like it was that night.

My name was not safe there. I was not safe. I was accidentally a nuisance!

I wasn’t a complete nuisance in my ward (though maybe a little.) I made some dear friends there. Though, there were many – uncomfortably too many - people who repeatedly asked us when we were planning to leave from the day we moved in until the day we left. It was strange and disheartening. I was counted as a “visitor” on our very last Sunday there. That bugged me. I know it was petty to let it, but it did. I had been in wards where most members only stayed for 3-6 months and we still found ways to be incredibly close. 3 years was an eternity in comparison, but not to the old-timers there I guess. We were just passers-by.

It was a sad day to realize that the influence I had enjoyed in Tucson, where I could quickly slap a great party together with a large turnout and hours of lovely meaningful conversation were over.

We planted three fruit trees together at our Pocatello home – “Christmas,” “Coyote,” and the Plum tree we never named. We picked off the unripe fruit from them the first season to make sure their roots could grow deep enough to establish long term. The following season a late frost killed off all the blossoms and budding fruit. When we sold our house, their limbs were heavy with green unripe fruit we never got to taste.

It was a sad to day to realize that the beautiful and carefully planned, prayed about and inspired home birth from our days in Arizona was cause for rumors and official emails to be sent to my husband about his somehow medically wayward home birth activist wife that might prevent him from achieving certain training from certain doctors in the program.

Speaking of birth. . .My Pocatello midwife, after Wren’s birth, warned me that “Post Partum depression sets in when moms feel like they don’t have a support system.” That was me. Me, without a support system. I mean, I had a couple of friends. But I couldn’t ask for what I needed from them. I needed a whole community. I couldn’t be vulnerable there completely. I didn’t want to let them in, I’d already been hurt. I could get counseling. . . though I tried that once early on in the residency journey with Squire. That proved a disaster for more reasons than I care to elucidate, here. I considered counseling for myself, but I didn’t want to waste my time or vulnerability on a counselor I didn’t trust. It is worse to go to a really bad counselor than to not go to one at all. I didn’t want anyone to know I was going and in small towns – as I had already painfully discovered – word always managed to get around. I didn’t know who to ask for a recommendation without giving away my cover. I didn’t know how to get a babysitter and lie about what I needed them for. I never went.

It was a sad day, several months after Wren’s birth when I had to plead for my husband to stay home in my postpartum craze for just a couple of days. I needed him to stay home. We had tried to put the request in well over a month before, but it was denied. But now, there was no denying me. He had to take two days off. Squire was concerned that doing so would make it so he didn’t graduate on time. I let him know it might delay his graduation even further if he came home to a bloody wife on the nice new white bedspread I had purchased with the time he’d spent working elsewhere. He was able to get two days, for the price of a relentless last few months. I greatly appreciated my bosom friend, Mickelle – the one who had been there for me with funeral potatoes after my miscarriage in Provo – showing up again, but this time on the phone. It was an immense relief to hear her laugh at my macabre statement when I shared it with her. That’s a true friend - one who acknowledges, then laughs at and simultaneously dispels the darkness.

I decided to hire a Mother’s helper for a couple hours each day after school. What a blessing she was to me! Truly. A blessing and a literal lifesaver while I was dangling from the edge of a rocking ice chunk in the arctic. She steadied me, gave me a reason to get dressed each day. She gave me the time to get some things done and to not be touched for a couple hours. Her presence helped me regain my sanity. She gave me what I so desperately needed and was missing – support. Consistent, regular, dependable support. I will always be grateful for you, Denali.

Residency ended with me missing my husband’s graduation dinner because of poor communication skills and some other problems I still haven’t identified but for which I’m sure we still need to go to counseling. I arrived, shrinking back from people who tried to comfort me in my late arrival or just to congratulate me for having made it through to this special moment but from whom I could not be gracious - I was trying desperately to hold back tears for the regret of that night. The regret of so many years. The regret I wasn’t that sad to leave. The regret of what I wasn’t able to give. The regret of the cost of it all – and the debt that was still to be paid in the future. The regret of the gap between my husband’s and my world views which were oftentimes (though not always, most thankfully) exacerbated by his training.

That night, Squire won one of the coveted teaching awards, as voted on by his fellow residents – given to the graduating resident who was most revered for their teaching. I wasn’t there to watch him receive it. But I was there to quarrel with him in the hallway and put on a face for pictures and the dinner that happened afterward.



That’s about how residency went down for me.

And yet. . .

I could never think of residency without thinking of our friends, the Downey’s. The friends who demonstrated beautiful family life, selfless Christian-living, joy in marriage and parenting. Seeing our kids build stick forts together from the fallen branches in my yard, and run wild on the Cherry Springs trail in all seasons, and on the trampoline and tire swing in their yard. Getting lost in conversation about all the most meaningful things and sharing good food and celebrating birthdays and whatever else the Downey’s conjured up as a reason to celebrate – and they always had a reason to celebrate. Their home bubbled over with lovely traditions and fun. Comforting each other with dark chocolate bars when the rotations were long and the kids were crazy. I’ll never forget how loved and known I felt when I saw the new package of paper plates on my front doorstep when my dishes were out of control. How we celebrated good news and shed tears and shared hugs for personal tender losses. We watched each others’ children when the other had an appointment or surgery to go to. We perused the Wild Hare Estate sale together and went Wildcrafting for Choke cherries and Elderberries. We canned until 2am for a few days straight once and enjoyed the delicious spoils of our labor for at least a couple years after that, and relished in the fact that we still never got bored talking during all that time and never have gotten bored chatting we each other since then, either.

I could never think of residency without thinking of Heather Neeley barging into my house on the first fateful day of our meeting past a confused and unimpressed Squire without even introducing herself, “Where’s Jami?” Her first impression was bold and the impact she has made on my life since that day was no less bold. She connected me to the other homeschooling moms in the area, we talked all things home school, Permaculture, prepping, gospel living, herbs, medicine, gardening, healthy eating, student life, mom life, the joy of animals. She taught me about keeping bees, Dragon Tonic, and making soap in the crock pot. And the food. We shared so much good food and so many lovely recipes. The tips and exchanges of information and the encouragement we share with each other in living our very best dreams to the fullest and being our very best selves continues onward.

I could never think of residency without Erin – my doppelganger in so many ways. One of my rare, trusted friends for babysitting. Encouraging each other in all the good things we could muster. Sympathizing through the crappy stuff. Our children played so beautifully together and could entertain themselves forever without screen time in the wild outdoors.

I could never think of residency without thinking of Danielle Curtis. Danielle (and Richard!) who brought me dinner and washed my dishes after Wren was born. And who cooed over my sweet baby Wren every chance they got! Danielle who soaked up every tidbit I had to share in my research on permaculture and made it come to life in her own backyard. Danielle with whom I shared heartfelt testimonies of sacred experiences and of things to come until 3am to the dismay of her lovingly/angrily concerned husband. Books and a few book club meetings, we shared those, too. We shared Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners together and I expect in a future day we will eat more special holiday meals together again.

I could never think of residency without thinking of. . .

Our wonderful next door neighbors “Grandpa” Norm and “Grandma” Sharon. The mail they would pass through the hole in our fence. Sharon taking us on field trips to favorite places in the area, and sending texts and stopping by to say hello to make sure I was ok from time to time. Slip and sliding and enjoying popsicles in their back yard. Seeing them find delight in the quirkiness and liveliness of our funny little brood. You are always welcome to come be our neighbors in Gardnerville!

We enjoyed Debby and Mike, our neighbors on the other side, too. We exchanged honey and eggs for oregano, tomatoes, potatoes, Armenian cucumbers, and other home-canned goods – and some occasional neighborhood gossip.

Brother Cummins telling me every Sunday he saw me how much he loved our family. And my expressing that we loved him, too. And his response every time, “I know.” His encouragement at church always seemed to come on some of my lowest days, often when I was bringing our 3 (and later 4) children to church by myself while Squire worked long hours.

Brother and Sister Evans always expressed their love for our crazy little family, too.

Emma Wood and our long chats about feminism, life after loss, marriage, the challenges of child-rearing, education, prepping, prophecies and happenings of the last days, Mormon culture, gospel doctrine, Roller-derby. Those things and the million other little tidbits we shared with each other reminded me that I still had a viable brain rolling around in my skull somewhere. I was/am grateful for a thoughtful PhD friend with whom to share these ideas! The texts she always sent when I was missing at church for one reason or another, I loved those, too.

AnnDy and Emma always coming by our home to play at our house or in the backyard. Their visits made it feel like we were back to an older and more golden era. Singing primary songs and reading scriptures together. Their baptism day. <3

The lovely classics book club that really was “The Best Book Club Ever” and full of energetic and fascinating women with wisdom to share.
The incredible setting-apart blessing from Brother Mackenzie when we first moved to Pokey.
Chatting with Nellie at the Garden Party at Hollie’s house. Getting our family pictures taken by Hollie – twice! I will always think of Hollie, her friendship and kind words when I look at her photos on my walls.

Teaching the Sunbeams with Sister Snyder at church and loving each one of them.
The heartfelt moments and shared struggles and triumphs of serving in a Primary presidency with Sheila and Tammy.
Carolyn’s soft heart and amazing testimony in the face of great adversity.
Playing the piano for Tara, Emma and Danielle’s Christmas Trio, “O Holy Night.”
The handful of prepper meetings Lynda, Jennifer, Robin, and many others attended – and everything I learned there.
Serving in Cub Scouts with Christiana and getting to know her loving heart and story. Such a lovely person – a calming and encouraging friend.
The home school moms’ book club with Tanya, Marcie, Alicia, and others. I didn’t make it to as many of these as I would have liked. But it never ceased to amaze me what inspiring and spirit-led women they were when we would come together to discuss a classic or a home schooling approach, or a self-help or parenting book. They are wiser than they realize.
Laughing and crying together over meals as my friend Shaleah prepared to give birth to her sweet baby girl with Arthrogryposis. And that time she rallied the young women to come clean out my suburban and she hand scrubbed my kitchen floors as a birth prep gift.
The handful of meals we shared with Kasia – the laughs and the uplift that would always inevitably follow.
Leading the music in Primary.
Game nights with Clint and Ashley and Andy and Melissa.
Meals and real heartfelt conversations with Andrew and Jenna.
Impromptu visits with Heather and her brood.
The Impromptu Cafe Rio lunch and hike at Cherry Springs with Holly and Carissa.
Carissa’s birthday tea party.
Long and fabulous chats and delicious lunches with LeeAnn about everything fascinating, conspiratorial, health, energy and gospel related. And some much needed encouragement.
Swimming in the lazy river at the swim center.
Dance classes with Miss Caitlyn.
Baseball lessons and games and chatting with Nora on the grass while we watched.
The Days for Girls Relief Society service activity.
The residency meals we hosted for interviewees and current residents of the program. Lots of good food and what felt like a real contribution to the cause.
Lance and Camille’s trailer trash party.
The sweet couple I taught a Hypnobabies course to while in Pokey.
The dumb funny signs in front of Taco time that always made me laugh.
The time Ashley and Jessica invited me out to ice cream after I stood up to bullies publicly, just to make sure I was doing ok.
Weekly chats with my local farmers when picking up raw milk.
Visiting the Ure’s small grass-fed dairy farm.
Visiting Lynn’s small goat dairy.
Buying sweet rolls from that one lady at the Farmer’s Market every Saturday.
Eating dinner (or breakfast for dinner) at the Cafeteria or in the Doctor’s lounge in the hospital with Squire so we could see him sometimes.

The time half my ward came out in droves and with smiles on their faces to help me finish prepping our Pocatello house for sale while Squire was on an away rotation in Boise. The help on two more occasions when it was time to move.

And of course – our tent life and the myriad memories there and all the friends who visited us at the end there as well. And so many more sweet moments and memories that I didn’t list here, but that I treasure nonetheless.

The last several months of shopping and running errands around town, I realized I never went out without seeing at least one person I knew.

And how could I forget receiving an email from Mavis, my Relief society president, in the very moment I was crying to my mom while packing up boxes, about my regrets for my time in Pocatello. How I had wished I had more to give during such a trying time in our lives. How I wondered whether I would be missed or whether I had even done an ounce of good in my time there. Her email said,

Jami our Relief Society and our ward, is so very grateful for all you and Squire have done for us. You came, you served, and you blessed our ward. You have added so much to us and you are going to be missed. My presidency and my husband and I pray that this next chapter in your life will be all that you would like it to be.”

Maybe residency wasn’t all that bad. 

Or. . . the triumphs were are least as savory as the woes were woeful.

Onward – and upward? - we go.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this. I am working up the strength and courage to share some of my dark moments. Maybe next year. Or in a few years. It's still too raw right now but it's nice to know that I'm not the only one faking it to hold it together.

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