Give your head a shake

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 44, No. 4, May 2002, Page 169 Editorials

Recently, I found myself mired in a funk of epic proportions. Every day there seemed to be one enormous crisis after another, so by the end of most recent weeks I felt like what I imagine a public relations consultant hired to improve the image of the Taliban in New York City would feel like. First, virtually no one outside of your very small sphere of influence is terribly interested in helping, and second, if you broadcast the elements of your problems too loudly or too frequently, you stimulate total disinterest.

So, as most beleaguered people do, I submerged myself in comfortable narcicism and basked in the warmth of egocentric denial. A comfortable way to justify misdirected blame, but definitely not an effective mechanism to reach and bolster one’s moral/ethical core.

All of this came into focus a few days ago when I paid a visit to a friend who had suddenly found himself on the very steep part of a slippery slope. My friend, whom I’ve known for many years as a colleague and close friend, made it quickly and abundantly clear that all of the things I had thought were so important just didn’t rate his consideration. After he listened briefly to my self-centred reply to his, “how’s things?,” he suggested that I give my head a good shake and start putting things into perspective. My friend then proceeded to tell me how his situation had focused him better than at any previous point in his life. His family and his friendships were the only things that currently had any real importance for him, and he wanted me to see how important this should be to all of us, all of the time, and not just at or close to the end of one’s life, and he wondered if the topic warranted an editorial.

I told him that the need for perspective is definitely worthy of an editorial, but as with everything there has to be a balance. I told him that I would never suggest that anyone disregard or abandon a measured, reasonable, and rational approach to our own professional and personal dilemmas, but he showed me how important it is to put my own demons in their proper place. In a few very focused, halting sentences he convinced me that at the end of the day it’s not the numbers on the ledger that are important, but the impact those numbers have on our behavior around and with the important people in our lives. 

So at the end of the next terrible day, week, or month, give your head a shake, put those demons in their proper place, find your own perspective, and most importantly, nurture those relationships most important to you.

I think my friend would like that I have written this, but I think he would like the fact that I’ve stopped feeling sorry for myself a lot more.


My friend Arnie Emery (UBC Medicine 1965) died quietly, early in the morning of 5 March 2002.—ED

James A. Wilson, MD. Give your head a shake. BCMJ, Vol. 44, No. 4, May, 2002, Page(s) 169 - Editorials.

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