Facing Fear: Art vs. Death

Yesterday was the first whole weekend day that my husband and I got to spend together since January. Or was it February. It might even be as long ago as December. I've lost track at how many days and weeks we've spent apart in the past year but I'm also thankful to have him home, especially on a lazy Sunday.

Me and my darling boy on our wedding day.

Me and my darling boy on our wedding day.

We did what most couples do on drizzly mornings where the most pressing thing to do in the day is to buy more coffee filters — we slept in, taking turns getting up and crawling back to bed, we drank coffee, did our own chores, read our favourite books or websites, talked about going to the gym but convinced ourselves that Sundays were a day of rest and if we believed in God, he would not want us to break a sweat. So we decided to go for afternoon pizza and beer. 

The pizza place was decorated in the way that most restaurants chains are: overdressed for the occasion with too many aggravating colours. We've ordered takeout from this place dozens of times but have never taken the time to go for a meal there. The place that I had imagined as the home of the most delicious pizza in the city (our own humble opinion) was not the place we had sat down in. Just an interesting observation that has nothing to do with anything.

With our impending move on the horizon and my husband's career taking a sharp and unexpected turn, we got to talking about the changes that we might anticipate, not knowing anything for sure. Once we got to talking about his work I realized that I had never asked my husband the one question that I would think most people would want to know when they learn he is a physician and more pointedly, that he is entering into an anesthesia residency.

Aren't you scared you will be the cause of someone's death? That someone might die as a result of your decision?

Taken right off the internet. My husband often says that if a person wants to know what it's really like working in a hospital, Scrubs is the best show to watch. No Grey's Anatomy bullshit. 

Taken right off the internet. My husband often says that if a person wants to know what it's really like working in a hospital, Scrubs is the best show to watch. No Grey's Anatomy bullshit. 

Even typing those words gives me a mild panic attack. How does he and every other physician in the world live with this thought? Of course his answer was as honest and humble as the man I married. He explained that it was of course a fear for every doctor but all that he could do was to provide the best care he knows how to give while remaining systematic in his approach. What more could a human being do? 

And while he explained this all to me, how the process of anesthesia works, how doctors are expected to approach patient care, I couldn't help but feel liberated in my fear of not producing great art! Yes, everyone's fears are valid and true to them, one not more important than the other, but this realization made my fear feel small and unnecessary.

How could I feel any fear of my work not being good enough or important enough or skilled enough when my very own husband has to live with the fear of potentially playing the role in a person's death? Should we talk about gaining perspective now or can we just agree that it has been gained?

Anatomical Garden - Neck. My husband keeps the original illustration in his office because he's awesome and my biggest fan. And it seems fitting given his line of work :)

Anatomical Garden - Neck. My husband keeps the original illustration in his office because he's awesome and my biggest fan. And it seems fitting given his line of work :)

But there is the other side of the fear coin to consider:

Fear is what drives my husband to be a better doctor, to keep him seeking the most up-to-date medical information, to find more compassion and empathy for his patients. This can be said about the fear of not producing great art. Although it's considered a negative emotion, fear can drive us to be better. A healthy dose of it, in medicine or art or anywhere in between, is a wonderful motivator to strive for excellence.

If we as artists believe that we have all the talent and skill we need to be the best, that we have already achieved our highest potential, then what more do we have to work for? Where do you go from being at the top of your game? I had a conversation this morning about achieving more in my work and that I believe that what keeps me pushing forward is the feeling that I have so much more to learn, more skill to gain and more talent to develop. What drives us artists is the desire to be better than our last piece of work — the fear of not producing our best each time.

So perhaps facing our fear, whatever it may be, means finding a balance in using it to our advantage while not letting it take advantage of us.

Until next time,

mMxo