What Else Have I Missed?
What do you see?
One day last Fall, I parked the car in the garage and walked into the house before sunset (a rare occasion). My wife asked if I had seen the Japanese Maple in our yard.
“What?” I responded. “Yeah…I think so…”
Knowing what that meant, she told me to go look at it. Grumble…grumble…
I walked out and stood in front of my house- the place we’ve lived for 27 years. I’d probably driven into this driveway six times a day for most of those. Heck, my home office is just inside those lower windows. But, somehow, I’d missed this.
I fell silent, eyes wide and mouth open. I’d never “seen” this before. There was our Japanese Maple – tall, majestically-shaped and a pre-deciduously perfectly vivid bright red color. That impression rivaled how I feel after a perfect surgery.
“Where the heck did that come from?” I thought.
Then reality hit. This was what had grown from the Japanese maple that my now elderly father had given us as a housewarming gift. I last “saw” it when it was a sapling. Somehow, I’d missed its annual neon foliage show every fall.
Smell the Roses
After my adrenaline from the amazing Japanese maple view dissipated, I asked myself “What else have I missed?”
Honestly, I could pack every non-medical-knowledge memory during my eleven years of medical school and residency into about three months of total time. Sleep deprivation, unrelenting cognitive focus, and human limitations did not allow for much real-time appreciation.
I was recently serendipitously listening to a podcast where a psychologist was describing feeling hurried for a “nothing,” pulling her elementary-aged son by the hand, when he broke free to look at and smell some peak-bloom blossoms.
“Mommy, these smell so good,” he said, when she reflexively retorted “We don’t have time to smell the roses!” Her words didn’t strike her until she got to her desk, where she realized that she was only rushing to organize some file folders.
My encouragement to you is that we each have time to see and experience the opportunities around us. We just need a reminder, at times, to use it!
Money Can’t Buy the Why
I realized after taking my first real look at that beautiful Japanese Maple, I needed to make a shift. Throughout a very successfully busy and always advancing career, supplemented with health system executive leadership, I had been so intensely accumulating my “What” that I had missed this enriching experience every single year. No amount of “What” could replace those lost experiences. Money can buy more Japanese maples, but I still need to learn to see them.
It’s a sad thing to realize there are undoubtedly other things I missed, and I don’t even know what they are. However, having had this Japanese Maple experience opened my eyes to the fact that these experiences are all around us. Knowing this, I am now able to see and experience much more and miss much less.
Seeing and experiencing everyday amazing opportunities like this doesn’t have to be a sacrifice. For me, it’s been a work in progress, but guess what? I remember more about these things, these “whys”, than I remember the type of suture I used to close my first patient.
If you’re like me in your tendency to focus on the “what” at the expense of the “why”, I encourage you to find your shift sooner than I did. It starts with acknowledging that we are irreplaceably missing some important life-impacting experiences.
Someday soon, I have some ideas and lessons to share that will help you with both the “what” and the “why” in parallel. We’ll have our cake AND icing. But for today, let’s first learn to see.
*Terance Tsue MD FACS, as Manager of TTTsue LLC