I was raised Roman Catholic. I went to Catholic school for all of my schooling years. My parents divorced when I was nine years old, before I was old enough to know that Divorce was wrong, according to the Catholic Church. Even before that, however, we were never a family who regularly went to Church (we were the infamous “Christmas and Easter” church-goers). It was probably sometime in early high school, maybe grade 10, when I started to question my belief in God, and Religion in general.
In science class, we had the “discussion” about evolution vs. creation before we started learning about “the theory” or evolution: Just because we were being taught evolution in science class, it did not mean that it was necessarily true or that the story of creation was false. It was glaringly obvious to me, however, that my science teacher believed he was blowing smoke at us and I knew, instantly, where his beliefs sat.
In religious studies class, we started having debates and discussions about ethical dilemmas such as birth control use, abortion, and euthanasia. Even at a young age, I felt very strongly about these issues and unlike how I felt about my science teacher, I did not share the same viewpoint as my religious studies teacher.
Today, I don’t know where I really fall when it comes to my faith or belief in “God” or a “Higher Power” (or whatever you want to call it). As a person with a strong science based background and education, I believe in the validity, truth, and evidence of science. However, I also believe there is a place in this world for faith and belief in something more powerful than us. I strongly respect the beliefs of other people, and more importantly, their right to hold those beliefs. Even now, in my “confusion” over my spiritual convictions, I often encounter thoughts, situations, and experiences that are inexplicable by any logic, science, or theory. So without commitment to “Religion,” “God,” “Science,” “Chance,” or “Fate,” I will say that I do believe in some force beyond our control – something I like to call the Universal.
Just a short time ago, in the week before Christmas, I was at a point where I believed I could not go on. I wanted to escape, I wanted a break from everything, and it was impossible for me to imagine making it any further in this life in which I’ve found myself. I left for my Christmas vacation certain that I would come back to the overwhelming mountain of stress that I was leaving behind. However, for the first time in years, Christmas was more enjoyable than I imagined. I felt more relaxed and calm that I had before. I was able to let some difficulties float away on a stream of… I don’t know what.
I was anxious and uncertain about returning to work, as I felt that the moment I resumed my normal activities, my new and fragile feelings of calm would come crashing down like a flimsy house of cards. But, the first call shift back at work saw very little work for me to do, and a full and undisturbed night of sleep – something completely unheard of on a general surgery rotation at a busy tertiary trauma centre. There was no explanation, yet it was what I needed in that moment, and I was thankful. I went home for my post-call day off, spent time with my children, and napped because I could and not because I needed to.
The week continued over the New Year’s holiday with no electively booked surgeries and fewer inpatients on my list every day. With the exception of performing rounds in the morning, there was nothing left for me to do and I was dismissed home by my senior resident before lunch, or earlier every day. At hand-over every morning, I saw the residents on-call for the previous nights exhausted, with their scrub pockets overflowing with yellow consult sheets: I knew this kind of shift was waiting for me on my January 1st call shift. To my delightful surprise, though, I spent most of New Year’s Day relaxing in the resident lounge, reflecting on my goals for the year, reading (and finishing) the novel I started only two days before, and responding to an unusually slim number of ward calls. After another night of relatively undisturbed sleep, I presented myself to the other residents with a sleepy-headed look and a mere two yellow consult sheets to show for the past 24 hours. Another post-call day filled with frivolous sleep and time spent with my kids preceded this current weekend, free of call.
When I look back on the past two weeks, one of a fantastically rewarding Christmas vacation and one of “unofficial break time,” I feel more relaxed, certain, and capable of handling the stresses that will come when everything starts up again next week. There is no explanation I can think of that would justify why I had one of the best Christmases with my family in years, or why I was the one lucky resident to have no work to do all week, including on my call shifts. All I know is that these past two weeks were exactly what I needed to mentally re-group, catch up on sleep, and place at least one foot solidly on the ground.
Something (someone?) somewhere knew that this was the time to give me a break – to answer my silent call for help. It is times like these that confirm my confused and cloudy belief in that Universal something.