Rebecca Elia's Blog

All about Feminine Health, Healing, and Greece

Monday, October 19, 2009

Is Perfection Your Middle Name? vs. If I Only Had a Brain!

Do you allow yourself to make mistakes? Or do you share my middle name, “Perfection?”

I lost my brain again today.* It’s been happening a lot lately. Perhaps it’s menopause. Or maybe I’m just letting go of perfection and allowing myself some mistakes.

I didn’t want to leave Delphi, but, alas, I did…only to get stuck at the rest stop in Livadia. I was texting a sick friend and sitting right in front of the bus. When I finished and looked up, the bus was gone! I hadn’t seen, nor heard, a thing. I looked up at a few Greeks standing lazily outside the café and asked “Eh-fee-gay? (Did it leave?)" Their answer, with characteristic Greek shrugs: “Yes. Of course.”

I ran inside and saw the kind ticket-taker-man sitting in the café sipping his coffee. He looked at me in disbelief saying, “I announced it inside the café!” I answered, in equal disbelief, “I was sitting outside, next to the bus, texting a message on my cell phone. I didn’t see anything; I didn’t hear anything.” He dialed a number on his cell phone and pleaded in Greek, “Please wait. Only five minutes.” The bus couldn’t have been more than a half kilometer away; I was sure it had just left. He asked a dignified trustworthy-looking gentleman to take me to the bus--in his Mercedes. I apologized profusely the whole-like-five blocks, and thanked him, telling him, repeatedly, what a good man he was. I explained that I didn’t know where my brain was today, that I had been sitting right in front of the bus and didn’t notice a thing, that in twenty years, this was the first time that this had happened to me.

I got onto the bus, offered an apology to the bus driver and sat down, but not before noticing how completely uninterested the Greeks were…no big deal. There was a foreigner, however, whose judgmental glance was paired with thoughts so loud the whole bus could hear: “Oh, of course. It would be YOU, stupid American.”

I recognized his look and his thoughts, realizing that, for most of my life, I have shared the same opinion of myself. My mind then wandered to the times in my life that I had made similar mistakes, like showing up late. I could only come up with two others. One was during the shooting of My Life in Ruins (also at Delphi) when I was Nia Vardalos’ stand-in. I left the set to pee, and, of course, this was the one time that they needed me…so my absence suspended the shoot for a few minutes. I never heard the end of it from the Assistant Extras' Casting Director (who, to this day, probably has no idea that I’m a gynecologist with responsibilities far beyond what he can imagine). The Extras' Casting Director, thought nothing of it, and reassured me that it was no big deal.

The only other time I could recall was to an important job interview on the East Coast. Somehow, I managed to sleep through my alarm, or perhaps it never went off. I woke up to a ringing phone and my future boss (yes, she still hired me) asking if, perhaps, I had slept in.

I could come up with these two incidences, only, in my entire life and, yet, I still berated myself. Even I realized that something was terribly wrong. How have we come to this point, when no one is allowed a simple mistake? When did we start treating ourselves and others as glorified machines, instead of as human beings? If my medical career, we continually strive to minimize, if not eliminate, human error. This has been one of the arguments in favor of electronic charting, prescription and lab test orders. But even the most elegant system is subject to human error. And even if we do everything correctly, there’s always the possibility of technological problems, ranging from viruses to system shutdowns.

I remember one such situation when our medical practice was transitioning to electronic charting. Paper charts were soon to become a thing of the past. Everything moved along smoothly until one day, we had a heat wave. The electric grid couldn’t handle the extra stress and the system shut down, throwing off access to electronic charts for several hours. We had no access to patient history, medications, lab results, orders, and electronic communications. We were, essentially, operating deaf, dumb and blind, as far as technology was concerned. The administrative response was, “What can we do? Do the best you can. It will be back up as soon as possible.” To this day, I have never seen such a response for human error. Why is it that we treat ourselves more harshly, expect more from ourselves than from technological systems that are far superior to human capabilities?

Please don’t wait until you go through menopause, or, if you’re a man, until you reincarnate as a menopausal woman, before you allow yourself some leeway. This is one area in which the Greeks are ahead of us. They have had to learn patience (after a several hundred year Turkish occupation) and accept lower expectations. I wouldn’t be surprised if this practice adds years onto their lives, as well.

Remember, you’re so much more than your brain. You’re human.

*Originally written on October 2, 2009


  1. Good reminder, Rebecca. Well articlated.
    Donna Carrick

  2. Thanks Donna...something many of us can, unfortunately, relate to! :)