Friday, December 31, 2010

resolution #6: slow down and relax

channeling my inner leo
i've made this resolution a million times before. call me optimistic -- but i believe that 2011 might be my year for finally putting thoughts into action:

quote & manifesto on my wall

i feel like so much of what makes life enjoyable vs. not is encompassed within this one aspect of how we choose to live: the pace.

as leo babauta points out in one of my very favorite zen habits posts (how not to hurry):
"Is a book better if you speed read it, or if you take your time and get lost in it?

Is a song better if you skim through it, or if you take the time to really listen?

Is food better if you cram it down your throat, or if you savor every bite and really appreciate the flavor?

Is your work better if you’re trying to do 10 things at once, or if you really pour yourself into one important task?

Is your time spent with a friend or loved one better if you have a rushed meeting interrupted by your emails and text messages, or if you can relax and really focus on the person?

Life as a whole is better if you go slowly, and take the time to savor it, appreciate every moment. That’s the simplest reason to slow down."
we rush around so that we can do more things, have more things, be first in line -- only to find out that there are no medals given out for breaking the tape in life.

and so my final resolution for 2011 is to be aware of the pace at which i am living life, and make a conscious effort to slow down.

i am struggling a bit with making this goal as concrete as some of the others, but i'll try! let's see . . .

measurable during times and activities where i tend to rush (examples: making dinner; driving to work; cleaning up; end-of-day tasks at work), i would like to stop, breathe, and make a conscious effort to slow down in what i'm doing. i would also like to make a point of having some unscheduled down time every week.

inspirational i know from experience that i am happier and life is more enjoyable when i do this! furthermore, when i don't rush, i produce better quality work, and . . . i am nicer, too.

concrete i will write about my progress with this goal at least weekly, and i will schedule weekly down-time into my planner, as ridiculous as that may sound.

realistic i am not aiming for some sort of perfect buddha state; my goal is just that i make an effort at described above. the focus is on the process, not the end result! (because that's what matters anyway, right?)

obtainable i don't think this will be the case, but if i find that life is just too crammed to allow for this resolution to work, i will change/reduce my commitments to make this goal attainable.

here goes nothing!

recap of all 6 resolutions for the new year tomorrow!

best of 2010
i already did a highlights post, but thought it would also be fun to mention some other favorites of 2010.


favorite 5 albums of the year . . .

vampire weekend, "contra"
broken bells, "broken bells"

best coast, "crazy for you"

beach house, "teen dream"

arcade fire, "the suburbs"

(note: some of these are 2008 or 2009 releases, but i watched them all in '10!)


crazy heart

revolutionary road



true grit

the namesake, jhumpa lahiri

the happiness project, gretchen rubin

dance, dance, dance, haruki murakami

in defense of food, michael pollan

168 hours: you have more time than you think, laura vanderkam (i both hated and loved this book - but it definitely made me think!)

what were your media favorites of the year?

plans for today
a low-key mix of apartment therapy catchup (including closet weed-out), relaxation, and celebration (at home!).



workout: i hit the gym and ran my allotted 3 miles @ 9:13/mi pace, and followed up with some weights:
- 2 x 12 pushups
- 2 x 12 squats (10 lb weights each hand)
- 2 x 10 seated rows (50 lbs)
- 2 x 12 double lunges (10 lb weights each)
- 2 x 12 lat pull-downs (55 lbs)
- 2 x 12 plank --> tucks on ball

cozy favorite: i am never disappointed when we go to panzanella -- i love the restaurant's warm and inviting vibe as well as the menu filled with fresh and seasonal comfort food with a bit of an italian edge.

josh is so intent on the menu that he didn't even notice my stealth photography . . .

doesn't it just look comfortable in there?

after enjoying plenty of olive oil & balsamic dipped bread, we split a california salad with caesar dressing (josh's choice). i loved the creamy goat cheese!

i had really wanted pizza, and this "3 fall green" pie did not disappoint! loaded with spinach, kale, chard as well as both goat cheese and mozzarella, i managed to eat my way through half this pie:

josh chose the gnocchi with butternut squash, truffle oil, and parmesan. you can tell when he REALLY likes an entrée by the fork blur (ie, he wouldn't stop eating long enough for a still photo!)

yum. well, we certainly ate well this year. i can only hope for equal deliciousness in 2011 . . .


  1. Anonymous11:50 AM

    Your goal of slowing down may not happen given your choice of profession but that does not mean you can't reach zen, for zen is experiential wisdom, and taking joy from that wisdom. It is less about controlling the inputs than successfully riding the process. Zen is managing the pager. The zen comes by not being reactive, but by having been proactive enough to come to understand what it is you are doing.

    If a nurse calls with a serum sodium of 142 at 3am you have a choice how you respond. It is your choice to let it piss you off or you can think about who you are and why you exist in this nurses world, and ultimately in her (and your) patients world. To do that gain confidence in yourself. Gain experiential wisdom. There is something satisfying in knowing your patient is normal. It means rightness exists, chaos is controlled and your patient is safe.

    Kindness is not about being nice. Being nice means you are claiming superiority in a relationship. You are basically broadcasting "this is what I want and you give it to me and I will call you nice if not hell to pay". Its nature is either/or either you acquiesce or else

    Kindness means you wield your power in a way that brings goodness to reality and order out of chaos. Kindness is both/and. (Being speedy for example is not exclusive from being at peace (both/and)) You have the opportunity to either be churlish to the 3 am phone call or you can ask the nurse how she is doing and thank her for the data. If you make that your habit your sleep will barely be disturbed. Over time your will not get the sympathetic outflow to the call because you chose to exercise your power wisely and are confident in your skills. I assure you no other doctor that nurse called asked her how she was doing. That is zen and it has nothing to do with speed, it has to do with choosing how to be. For 20 years I was called from my bed to come into the hospital and perform labor epidurals. The choice? I could take joy that I had the skill set to bring relief to a new mother or I could get all pissed off at being called in. By choosing joy I brought relief. By (proactively) honing my skills I became the best at the procedure at my hospital and the nurses were always glad it was me who was on call because the procedure was fast and effective and no acrimony in the process. The chaos was controlled. I could go home an hour short of sleep but well satisfied. The hour short of sleep is what I signed up for when I said I would take on the responsibility to be the communities anesthesiologist so there is no bitch, it's what I signed up for. I'm at the end of my career and over the course I have done 20K anesthetics and about 20K epidurals and have had some effect on about 20% of the population in my area (since I'm so damn old). In other words you can and will have a big and enduring effect and the relationship between you and the community is organic, as in a living thing.

    By way of perspective, This level of zen is hard to do when you are a fellow because these in the end are not your patients and this is not your hospital, but when you become attending they will belong to you and you will watch them grow and prosper and you will have a very direct hand in that. Being their Doctor is what you are in the process of becoming and there is something very humbling in that. A normal serum sodium is a badge of the success of your relationship with your patient. The nurse on the phone is an extension of your power, but she is not a robotic extension. She is a person. If you treat her with respect and tell her why you do things the way you do and what you expect to happen then she will come to trust you and feel a more complete part of the patients care, and your power over the chaos will be maximized. Zen is achieved

  2. Shu, this is a great resolution for 2011. It is something I have been trying in my life as well although it is a bit easier as I am not tied to patients or hospitals in public health!
    And anonymous your words of wisdom were inspiring to me. Even though it was addressed to Sarah I will copy and paste it and keep it in my Filofax, to read again if I am feeling frustrated with a situation. It builds on something that my parents taught me. It was be respectful to everyone :-) it is probably why I didn't have too many problems when I was a more junior dr and makes life so much easier and nicer! Happy New Year!!

  3. I don't comment much, mostly b/c I can't seem to comment from my work pc *blushing*. Your blog is among the favorites of my reader, as in, when I have 993 unread items, I'm sure to read yours before marking the others as "read". You're inspirational, in a genuine sort of way. Wishing you the best for 2011, and that you realize all your dreams.

  4. anon: thank you for the thoughtful comment - i will take it to heart. of note, i will say that generally my interactions with nurses have been positive ones! (i even have at least one nurse reader that could probably vouch :) ). furthermore, i have been lucky enough to generally work with very good nurses that i respect a lot (and who taught me a ton during residency).

    but: i need to use the same philosophy when dealing with an 11 pm phone call from someone who 'just realized now' that they were out of insulin with no prescription. your attitude on getting out of bed (being thankful you have the skills to help someon) is inspirational and something i will strive for.

    caribbean: from what i have read of your writing, i can only imagine you are a total sweetheart to work with! also an inspiration.

    loreejo: thank you so much -- as someone who cherrypicks her own reader, this means a lot! i truly appreciate it.

  5. thanks for sharing the "how not to hurry habits." i am going to put those up so i can re-read them daily! Happy New Year's Eve!

  6. Happy New Year, Sarah! I so enjoy reading your blog each day and I found your new years eve post today to be so poignant. I love the idea of resolving not to hurry our way through life... I also want to jot down that zen note for my new planner this year.

  7. I just started reading your blog but have enjoyed every word of it! Thank you for sharing your adventures this year! I can't wait to see what 2011 brings!

    I also want to thank you for the simple gift of acceptance of myself. I know that sounds so odd but reading your blog the last few months has really grown me. I have changed how I think about myself through this blog. I embrace who I am so much more now than ever before. Thank you! Have a wonderful new year!!!

  8. nan: thank you -- i'm glad i'm not the only one striving for zen in a type a fashion :)

    shorty: wow, what an amazing comment to wake up to! thank you so much. happy new year!

  9. I am a yoga teacher and I can tell you that mindfulness and presence are something that needs to be practiced and actively cultivated. Yoga helps, but the best way is through meditation- and it doesn't have to be for 20 minutes. I do one minute meditation many times throughout my day during transitions between activities. It helps me slow down and pause to let the experience sink in. There is a free 30 day course by Martin Boronson on here: . You read a one minute blurb everyday for 30 days and at the end you can get zen in a moment. He also has a book called One moment meditation. It is an amazing practice!

    You can also try picking one activity you do everyday and being extremely mindful of that activity- experience it with all five senses. the key to mindfulness is feeling.

    The other thing to remember is that we expect to/think we should be able to do this automatically. Not true- that's why it's so hard. Slowing down and being present doesn't come naturally- we're hardwired to tune out what is familiar. It takes intention and practice. But practicing it for a few minutes a day will retrain your brain, cultivate the neuropathways for awareness, and make it easier to remember/practice/be "zen".

    I actually dropped out of med school after 2.5 years to become a yoga teacher and while I am extremely happy in my choice, it is nice to see what life would be like if I stayed in med school through your blog. I do miss it sometimes. Thank you!

  10. Your entire dinner looks great! I want to make that gnocchi dish (well, I'd buy the gnocchi). Is there a green veggie in there to?

    I listened to In Defense of Food as an audio book on a car trip this summer and enjoyed it. I want to check out the Happiness Project book you listed.

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