In the Thick of Things

I’m always spouting off about perspective. Why is that? Maybe it was a turning point in my life the day I gained a little perspective, so I enjoy talking about it. Or maybe it’s because I’m obsessive compulsive and I really need to push forward and find a new attribute to exploit. Whatever the case may be, I find that when I’m in the thick of things, perspective proves a very useful tool in diffusing anger and frustration.

For example, today was arguably one of the most trying days of my career. I’ve had many rough days causing me to reflect and give pause regarding my ambitions and the purpose of life. You know, deep stuff. (Daily dose of death can truly cause one to appreciate life.) I generally catalogue those days and store them in the recesses of my mind hoping never to revisit their awful horror. Imagine for a moment unleashing all of those suppressed emotions at once. It happened to me today in an instant.

We were faced with 11 exams, which itself is a daunting task. I helped in an adjacent autopsy room with one doctor. We had just finished up our second exam just before 11AM and were preparing to start on a third. I stepped into the main autopsy suite to find our where the other team was in relation to the caseload and asked about their status and their plans for further examinations. (I was unaware at the time that an inquiry had already been made in regards to their progress.) I then returned to my station and continued helping the doctor.

As I was cleaning up I was approached by the doctor who performed autopsies in the main autopsy suite. Driven by discontent and staff grievances my motives for multiple inquiries were in question. I explained that my intentions as the morgue supervisor were to maintain an effective and productive schedule. My response seemed to suffice for the moment, but morale was still poor.

Needless to say, the fact that my intentions were in question bruised my ego. Now, I know, it sounds anticlimactic when I put it that way, but I really don’t want to go into a lot of detail. Let’s just say that I was as angry as a swarm of fire ants whose meticulously constructed ant hill had just been annihilated. (Can’t you just picture yourself as an eight-year-old quickly inserting your size 6 boot into the side of the mound and kicking it up? I remember doing it and watching the scattered ants scurry around probably wondering how their world just got turned upside down and deciding what to do next. I also remember being bitten by several of them who had somehow crawled up my boot and into my sock.)

My mind was as scattered as those tiny, angry, red ants. Thankfully I had a dear friend and colleague who visited with me soon after and helped me regain composure. She helped me take hold of the big picture.

As I look back on the events of the day I can clearly see the precipitating displeasure that gradually escalated. Emotions were high, caseload was extreme, and misunderstanding or miscommunication got the best of us. The bottom-line is that my problems pale in comparison to those around me. I remind myself that there are families everywhere tonight grieving for the loss of loved ones and my heart goes out to them. Part of what we do at the Office of the Medical Examiner is provide the answers to the difficult questions in order to help families cope with the loss of their loved one.

I sometimes find myself eluding the big picture. It takes a moment like this to put me back on track. These moments are uncomfortable and unnerving, but I feel they are necessary for social and personal development – if experienced properly. A supportive colleague and good friend helped me get through my bad moment. Who gives you support? Don’t forget to thank them.

I’ll keep you posted on how things turn out next week. Please share any experiences you’ve had dealing with difficult situations and how you survived.

Thanks for following.

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7 responses to “In the Thick of Things

  1. I really appreciated the fact that you conferenced with your employees and made them accountable for their future behaviors and attitudes; instead of just letting it slide. GOOD FOR YOU! Also what I liked about this is that you learned something valuable through this experience and instead of keeping it to yourself you shared it with us (your readers) and with your employees by reminding them to keep their attitudes in check. Thanks for the article!

    • Thanks for reading and commenting, and you’re welcome. It can be difficult airing one’s dirty laundry in public. I hope by doing so I can accomplish two things: personal and professional development for myself and my readers.

  2. I think it is vital that teams work together. It only causes anxiety and angst when there is complaining and disregard for others. We all have bad days, everyone does. What needs to happen is that your team makes it through this experience having learned something. It stinks to go through days like this. Sometimes even the biggest Chocolate Cookie won’t help sweeten up the day, but as small as it may seem to the bigger picture, perhaps we need to find those sweeter moments and try to make them bigger. Your minds have to process so much emotion in any given day, I think you all hit your limits, which never makes for good situations. I am excited to read a follow-up, and perhaps even a list of ways to cope with stress!!

    • Thanks for your insight. It’s accurate to say that emotions often run high at the OME, but are mostly suppressed. It’s also true that we sometimes reach our limits and I agree that we certainly met our limit yesterday. It seems that it would require an outside source or entity to come in at those times to remind us of the sweet times because it’s difficult to see the good when you’re in the middle of the worst. I’m embarrased to admit that I should have been the person the team turned to yesterday when those bad times threatened our peace, but unfortunately I was at my limit too and I failed my team yesterday.

  3. It also helps to use empathy by stepping back and thinking…the back up doctor? Was she struggling with problems that she also had not expected (ill family member, hassles with children, rotten phone call from spouse, tax problems she had not expected?) We don’t know all the reasons for somebody flying off the handle. Sometimes, a little time and space, and a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, might be the BEST thing we can do to improve the situation for the whole group. Just a thought! great article

    • Those are good reasons to consider. We really don’t know what’s happening in someone’s life that might affect their attitude for the moment. We just had this conversation within my research group of psychiatrists and geneticists. For example, I used to be an angry driver. Ask my wife. Roadrage was second nature for me until I mentally took a step back and considered the other driver. There could be so many factors involved in a situation that we don’t see or understand or perhaps don’t want to see because we are so naturally egocentric. Driving became more enjoyable when I started looking into the vehicle and started seeing people rather than just a 2-ton piece of steel that got in my way without my permission. Thanks for your comment.

  4. Pingback: Follow up to Friday’s Fiasco | brandcall

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