Breakfast con cerveza brings enlightenment

August 1, 2008

Both at home and at work, it is easy to lose sight of why I am doing what I do. I get so caught up in the work at hand, whether it is a pile of unread requests or a two-page honey-do list, I forget about the bigger picture. It can be good to refocus.

Both at home and at work, it is easy to lose sight of why I am doing what I do. I get so caught up in the work at hand, whether it is a pile of unread requests or a two-page honey-do list, I forget about the bigger picture. It can be good to refocus.

Recently, my wife and I joined four other couples and took a trip to Mexico. We stayed at Secrets Capri, an all-adult, all-inclusive resort on the Mayan Riviera for a week. Call me crazy, but I can relax and refocus a lot better surrounded by close friends, good food, beautiful beaches, an unlimited supply of frozen drinks in a wide variety of colors, and a comfortable lounge under a thatched hut. I also read a really good book.

Before we left, Deana bought me Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo. She knows me too well. Breakfast is the story of Otto Ringling, a comfortable middle-aged man, and his car trip across the U.S. with a Siberian monk named Volya Rinpoche. He gets tricked into the journey by his psychic sister. While his life is comfortable, Otto needs a little refocusing, and Merullo pulls off his story in a very humorous, unassuming style.

Our first day on the beach, while everyone else was coming and going, I stayed glued to my book and chaise.

Fortunately, our beach waiter kept me nourished with Coronas and seafood tacos.

The book is a stealth attack. You laugh at Otto's thoughts and predicaments, and then you're thinking of your own life. The ultimate message for me was pretty simple: Be kind to those around you, don't expect too much from anyone or anything, and try to minimize your screwups.

Like all of you, I am far too rushed at work. Some would say because I am greedy. I think it is because my partners and I (and you readers) are good at what we do. When was the last time someone in your community had exploratory surgery? What is the rate of normal appendectomies or cholecystectomies at your hospital? How small is the average breast cancer when found in your practice? The list goes on and on.

At work, I am helping people, and I try not to screw up too often. The monk's expectation thing is a little harder for me.

At home and at work, I tend to expect a lot from people. I have really high standards for my kids, which is a little surprising since I was a juvenile delinquent. Because of Breakfast, I am trying even harder to cut them some slack. My wife just called (literally as I write) to tell me they had broken my laptop. I will not explode. Not really sure how to react, but I will not explode. It is an old machine but of sentimental value. I've had it ever since my first wife threw my previous laptop out of a second-storey window when we were separating. Not exploding is tough for everyone.

Every tech in my department is busy. When a contrast injection is mistimed or a follow-up film is 10 minutes too late, it's easy to forget they are just as rushed as I am. The real frustration comes when the problem was obviously avoidable. Stupid decisions usually yield stupid results, and many decisions are obviously stupid when viewed through the retrospectoscope. How do I deal with all these fallible humans at work?

Be kind to those around you, don't expect too much from anyone or anything, and try to minimize your screwups.Periodically, it is good to refocus. Why are you doing what you do? You may find it easier to answer under a palm tree on a beach in Mexico. I suggest you take the time. If you choose the Secrets Capri route, Deana and I are available as counselors.

Dr. Tipler is a private-practice radiologist in Staunton, VA. He can be reached by fax at 540/332-4491 or by e-mail at btipler@medicaltees.com.