My road to self-discovery was laid over many years, and spoiler alert* the work is on going. But I can identify 3 pivotal moments in my journey that created a profound shift towards a deep sense of knowing who I am and what I am meant to be in this world. In this 3 part series I recount how a shift in my mindset gave me the permission to appreciate the privileges in my life while also wanting more; how the birth of my gratitude practice reoriented my brain towards the present moment and how a brave step into therapy challenged and healed my limiting beliefs.
As a CAA, I know how important it is to share the messy middle- the why and the how- as well as the end result. That is how we learn in the OR and in life. After listening I hope you feel a sense of empowerment that you too can discover the life uniquely meant for you, whatever that may be.
Welcome to the Awakened Anesthetist podcast, the first podcast to highlight the CAA experience. I'm your host, Mary Jeanne, and I've been a certified anesthesiologist assistant for close to two decades. Throughout my journey and struggles, I've searched for guidance that includes my unique perspective as a CAA. At one of my lowest points, I decided to turn my passion for storytelling and my belief that the CAA profession is uniquely able to create a life by design into a podcast. If you are a practicing CAA, current AA student or someone who hopes to be one, I encourage you to stick around and experience the power of being in a community filled with voices who sound like yours, sharing experiences you never believed possible. I know you will find yourself here at the Awakened Anesthetist podcast. Welcome in, welcome back everyone in this CAA community and welcome to season three and the five-ish minutes of mindfulness for the busy CAAs series. Now a couple of housekeeping things. I have realized that there is no way I'm ever going to be able to do anything in five minutes or less. I'm going to kind of rebrand these episodes, as you have seen in the title, to just mindfulness for the busy CAAs, and I also want to remind everyone who's listening who maybe is pre-AA or they're in AA school, so your current AA student. Of course these episodes are meant for you as well. Unfortunately, our name is a very long name certified anesthesiologist assistant and so it just gets a little bit cumbersome, and so I've just found myself referring to this entire community as CAAs, but of course I mean all the various aspects of what it means to be a CAA in your own journey. You are welcome here at Awakened Anesthetist. So, with that little piece of housekeeping done, I wanted to reflect a little bit back to you on the direction that these mindfulness episodes are about to take. The Awakened Anesthetist is an outlet for me really to share two of my great passions while building this CAA community. The first passion, which you've heard me talk a lot about, is storytelling. Hearing and telling a good story just makes me feel so alive. And the second passion is I get to really foster this deep sense of connection for myself and for all of you, the listeners, you know, a connection with self, a connection with our work and a connection with others, and those two passions, wherever they overlap, is what ends up kind of spewing out to you on this podcast, and so it's been really interesting to see the types of topics and the types of conversations I've been having here, especially in these solo episodes, when you're really just hearing what's going on in my life or my own personal journey, and it has been very eye-opening how much mindfulness comes into play when I think about my own personal path and I think about the how behind, how I realized what was truly meant for me in this life, what I meant to do, how I built my life by design and just some of the nitty-gritty that seems to always go back to this through line of mindfulness, which is kind of a surprise to me as much as it may be to you, especially if mindfulness is not something that is part of your daily life or your morning routine, or if you just feel like mindfulness isn't approachable to you as a CAA. Yeah, I mean, I think I've been in all of those spots and so when my conversation, when I'm journaling, or when I'm thinking of new episodes, these solo episodes, or when I keep thinking about what I want to share about myself, the fact that it comes back to mindfulness has been very eye-opening. And at the end of season two so the end of last season, I put out on my Instagram and FYI, if you're not following me. Instagram is really the only social media platform that I'm consistently showing up. So if you want to know a little bit more about behind the scenes or upcoming interviews, if you want to offer your two cents on some of my guests for season three, as well as partake in any Q&As, or I'm going to be doing some more IG lives If you follow me at Awakened Anesthetist so at Awakened Anesthetist on Instagram, that's really the place that you're going to get all of that content. Okay, so you should follow me there. But I digress. At the end of season two, I polled you guys and asked what you wanted to see in season three, or what you wanted more from me, and a lot of you really resonate with these mindfulness episodes, which was again also a little bit of a surprise to me. It kind of felt like this was my off the wall thing, and time and time again I'm just showing like I'm not alone in this. Mindfulness is not some far out thing anymore, but the struggles that I had diving in to the beginning of a mindfulness practice still seem to be hurdles, and so what I really want to do is share with you that I'm about to embark on a really a 14 month mindfulness teacher training. It's going to kick off this October, so just in a few weeks I will be going on a five day silent retreat here in the Midwest. That retreat is going to be really step one into this year long teacher training. I will also becoming a facilitator for a program called Mindful Practice in Medicine, which is through a different group, and I'm going to be going to their retreats and doing some of their trainings as well. And yeah, it's going to be a long journey but unbeknownst to you all. When you offered that you want more of these mindfulness episodes, I think it really allowed me, gave me the permission which I'm going to talk a little bit about more in this episode but it gave me the permission to continue and explore this interest of mine, this passion, and then you know, what I like to do here is bring it back to the community that I have discovered has really allowed me to launch into this life by design, and that's the CAA community. And so I will be starting that, doing that here in October, and what I want to do over the next few of these mindfulness for the busy CAA episodes is just to take you way back to the beginning, before this podcast was even a thought, before I knew that mindfulness was going to be my through line to my life by design. Just take you back to the CAA who was working full time and was realizing that she wanted something more, something different. I felt unsettled, I felt unsatisfied and I didn't know where to turn to. And when I now look back from the position I am in now maybe the after position I can see that what I was being led towards was a deep knowing of myself, and that deep knowing of myself came through mindfulness. It really did. I kind of like to say that I was tricked into mindfulness in several different ways, and these were three of the big times that I was tricked into this deep knowing of who I am, what I meant to be, what it feels like to be me and just to feel really calm and satisfied in my day to day life. The first really pivotal moment was a mindset shift and that was giving myself the permission to be grateful for what I have and also want more. And I'm just going to tell you the other two, because I hate when people sort of dangle things in front of me. The second episode in this series is going to be discussing the beginning of my gratitude practice and the really details behind how that started, what I did initially, and then the third episode is going to be the moment that I took myself to therapy. It was the first time I went to therapy. It was a deep healing type of therapy called EMDR, which was for trauma that I had suffered when I was a child, and this is not to say that everyone necessarily needs to go to therapy, but I think the point I want to drive home in that episode is really facing your unconscious roadblocks and facing your unconscious fears and your trauma. So those are the three episode topics for at least the next three mindfulness episodes, and I hope they really are expansive for you all and make you feel like you're not alone and that you can get through this, and that there's a lot of little baby steps that no one wants to tell you about. They just want to show you the end picture and be like, oh, this is so great, here I am, but that's just not reality. There is so much that goes into building a life by design, and step one being figuring out what you want, who you are, who you're meant to be in this world, what makes you happy, what makes you tick? That is a lot of deep work, and for me, that work is done through mindfulness. So by the end of these episodes, if you feel like your journey is also leading you down the path of developing a mindfulness practice or deepening an existing mindfulness practice, I want to be there for you as well. I'm going to be creating new mindfulness episodes that really ground the practices in neuroscience and physiology and anatomy and all these things that CAAs can really hold onto and get behind and give themselves the permission to start, give themselves the permission to keep going things and resources that I wish I had when I was beginning. I'm going to be creating and sharing with you all. So I hope you like these episodes. I hope I'm meeting your need as well as fulfilling my purpose here in this life, and I can't wait to get started. So let's start with this first pivotal mindset shift I needed to make to begin my journey, which was to give myself permission to be grateful for what I have and to also want more. So the moment that I gave myself permission to want more was the first moment that I truly could identify my authentic self. Or, if you want to think about it, my truest self, or like that thing inside of me that resonates when you're doing exactly what you're meant to do. And I did not realize that all of the many feelings I have had before, that, all of the passions that I have, the times that, like I, was excited about something new or a new project or a new idea, those weren't always my truest self. Oftentimes those were my body was reacting because I was doing something that someone else wanted for me. I was meeting someone else's expectations, I was living what our culture thinks is a good life and when I sat down to really trace back why this moment of permission giving to myself mattered so deeply, I think, like many things, I am taken back to my childhood and you may resonate with the fact that I was raised by two parents who loved me very deeply. They wanted what was best for me. They wanted everything that they did not have or were able to achieve. They wanted for me and for my brother and sister, and they've sacrificed a ton to get me where they wanted me. You know they wanted to give me a college education. They wanted to give me a Catholic education growing up. They wanted me to be successful, to be, you know, on my own two feet. Of course, these things are not wrong or bad, but they had a very boxed in idea of what a good life was, and it very much was never asked of me what I really wanted or what felt like a yes to me versus like, okay, I'm doing this because you wanted me to do it. And this showed up a lot in my childhood, not just with education or when I talked about like my future career with my parents as I got older. This was a theme throughout my childhood and I think probably in a lot of American culture is that we are not raised to be this beautiful expression of our most unique selves, our most authentic selves, like we're all kind of shepherded into this box of one step after the next step and then you climb this ladder and then we're all trying to reach for these jobs and then you work for a long time and then you retire and then you enjoy your life and it's just very kind of treadmill and I had never questioned that I was on a treadmill. I had never even recognized that that's what I was on, because I was always quite successful and if you're a CAA, you probably have also been quite successful. You've been good at school. Things come kind of easy to you. You're a people person, you know. I think for all intents and purposes, we're living the life that so many others want. And while I think that's beautiful and a privilege and I'm so grateful to our CAA profession I would not be here without my CAA profession I also wanted more and I felt so guilty about that because, on top of being raised in this kind of boxy way to think about life, I was also raised to stay very grateful and to be humble and to be small and to recognize how good I had it and how others don't have it this good and I should be happy for what I have and not question it. And again, while there are pieces of truth in all of that learning and a way to have a sense of gratitude towards your life, it was never encouraged to look at what I have and ask myself is this what I actually want, or is this what others want for me and that they would be grateful if they had for themselves? And this is such a tricky topic to talk about because, of course, what you want is going to be unique and different. The way you've been raised has been unique and different. But I do think that by and large, caas are perfectionist type, a sort of analytical achievers. We're people who have been top of their class, we've been honored and venerated for being good and maybe that came easy to you. And there's a whole lot of conditioning that goes into an achiever sort of personality, and one of those things is often to be grateful and to be happy with what you have, because others may want it and not be able to have it for themselves. And it's so tricky to then be in your 30s, like I was, decade into my CAA profession, and to realize that I wasn't happy. I was not happy with all of the wonderful things I already had in my life. There was this cognitive dissonance because I could recognize that my CAA profession had given me the tools to be happy and it met all of my basic needs. It gave me a sense of community, of connection. It gave me resources, financial. It gave me health insurance. It gave me security and protection. It gave me a huge sense of value. I got to, you know, humble myself in the OR with my colleagues. I got to take care of patients. I mean just really met every one of my basic human needs, plus all of the other ones, but yet I wanted more. And around 2017, so five years ago, I was about 34. I was about to have my third child and the sense of wanting more became so disruptive in my life that I felt like, okay, I guess I'm just gonna have to make a huge change. I'm about to blow up everything, reconfigure my whole life and like, what does that look like? And I wasn't sure and, of course, I couldn't do that all right away, but I thought that's what I have to do. And when I looked for resources on what do you do when you feel unsettled and you want more and you're not happy with your life, when I looked for resources out in the world you know books and podcasts and community and you know all of the things there was this segment of self-help that was about monetizing your passions, of which I have many monetizing your passions, creating a new life, like building a career, and then like burning your old life and moving forward with this new passion project life. And that became really enticing and I thought, oh, there's my answer, that's what I'm gonna do, and I now, looking back, can see there were so many little tidbits in there that I was identifying with, but I never felt quite connected with that message because I knew I did not want to leave my CAA profession. I love giving anesthesia and it wasn't necessarily the job, the profession that I had an issue with. It's just that I couldn't be my whole self in just that one aspect, like at work, working as a CAA was this big part of who I was. But there were all these other parts as well that weren't expressed at work and I hadn't yet realized in 2017 that I could use my CAA profession to meet all of these basic needs and all of again like next level needs as well, and then I could create freedom in order to explore other things adjacent, like parallel to my career. I did not know that in 2017. This was a huge, long journey and I had to try a lot of different modes of being and thinking before I found the right one, and there certainly weren't any resources. There were no CAAs that I had met or that I could find that were talking about this struggle that I felt like I was having in my own life, about recognizing that I'm grateful for my CAA career but I'm not quite fulfilled wholly. It's not an expression of every part of me and like, where do I go forward with that? What do I do? How do I reckon this unsettled part of myself? And so I had to turn to the resources that were present and this piece of identifying what my more was like putting language to that didn't come in 2017. It didn't come in 2018. In 2019, I was listening to again one of these podcasts about monetizing your passion and I had kind of traveled down that road. I had started a hot fudge company, like truly hot fudge that you put on an ice cream. I had started making it in a commercial kitchen. I had gotten FDA licensed. It wasn't the first thing I tried, but it was one of the things that was kind of moving quickly and moving forward. I had done a bunch of other things kind of rearranged my morning. I had started a morning routine. I had read all of the self-help books and entrepreneurship books and was just starting to get into self-awareness, like books and podcasts and things that were really starting to identify how to figure out what you personally want. And that was all kind of happening when I was listening one morning to a podcast and during the commercial break. They advertised a summit or like a content creator symposium, and it was gonna be these creators who were speaking to people who wanted to make a big change or people who wanted more head of life, and they were talking to the 20 somethings and the 30s and the 40s. And then the last person they said was gonna be there was a content creator who makes retirement aged content. So she is an author and a blogger and speaker and she had just written a book called right sizing, and the she I'm talking about her name is Kathy Gottberg. She is like a sixty plus writer and author, and this book, right sizing, they like give a little blurb about what it was, and it was basically about Shifting the narrative from downsizing your life or calling out the narrative of trying to up size your life, thinking that more things, more money, more possessions, bigger career. You know that that was the way it was really calling out that upsizing and downsizing as as Miss steps, and it was identifying this idea of right sizing, like bringing your life exactly to what you need and no more like finding the cap on everything that you need. And I just instantly was like, oh my god, this, this, these are my people. I have found my people. It is not the passion project community, it is not, you know, the other communities that was kind of tapping into and getting little things. It is this retirement aged community. I am meant to be Sixty plus. These are my people, the. This is the life that I want. And it was through deep dive and Google. And then subsequently I had written Kathy, the author of right sizing, a handwritten letter, and I was like would you be my mentor? I'm so excited about your message. It just really created this deep resonance in me that I had to pursue and I'm a passionate person, and so I kind of got a little I wouldn't a little deep on it, but she was so gracious and we actually did develop a relationship over the next couple years and she really helped me understand that. The more that I wanted was I wanted more time, and she gave me that language, her community gave me that language, which is a sixty plus community, and of course, they're focused on time and wanting the most valuable Asset time. They want to privilege it and they want to make sure that they're using it in the best way that they can, because their time is more limited theoretically then maybe mine was at thirty, and it was through this relationship with Kathy, with this Community, that I had found that resonated, that I was able to give myself the permission to want more, and my more was that I wanted more time. And that sense of permission unlocked like truly in my body. I felt it unlock in me a glimmer of who I really am. So not what others wanted for me, not what my parents wanted for me, not the life I had at the current moment, but what do I want? What is the truest version of me. And it give me a teeny, tiny little window into that person. And the moment I saw that window into myself, I was able to identify it and be like, yes, I want more of that. There she is, hello, I've been looking for you. And I then was able, since I had seen it once, I was then able to identify it forever since then. So you know, it's twenty twenty three and I'm still figuring things out. But because I was able to have first seen my true, authentic self and I was able to feel how that self, how how myself, fit into this larger community In this case it was this retirement age community talking about living their best life or their life. By design, I had been given the permission to Not need to blow up the rest of my life. I didn't need to leave my CA profession. It wasn't this huge shift that I needed in terms of like what my day-to-day actually looked like. I needed this permission to Re-evaluate where in my life I had excesses and bring those all back into this right-sizing mentality and then to focus on the one thing that I was able to identify that I wanted, which was time, and, coincidentally, I really found great success in that by using the CA a profession, by leveraging all of its strengths and all of the wonderful things that it gives me and Using that to find the cap on all of the good things, and then saying, okay, I'm gonna use my CA profession to meet all of these needs and anything left over I'm gonna leave as white space. I'm going to create time and just live in this Area of more time in my life, more space, more margin, more white space. There's so many wonderful ways to describe it, but that's what I wanted, and so, from about 2019 to about now, I've been either creating white space and time or I've been being really intentional about filling it with things that allow me to feel like myself. And Mindfulness comes into play, because mindfulness is what allows my brain and my body To slow down and to meet each other, so that my brain is living in the same space that my body is. My body's always in the present moment, but oftentimes my brain is thinking seven steps ahead, or it's worrying about the thing that's already happened or what I said, or worrying about, you know, doing a spinal in three hours, or who's gonna get my kids off the bus if I can't go home from work. You know, mindfulness is what lets me release the disconnect and bring my brain and body together. And when I'm in that space, I'm much more able to tap into my Authentic self and to really understand what I want, to drown out all the other voices and just to meet myself. And again, because I had seen it this very first time, when I gave Myself this sense of permission and like something in my body clicked into place, I was able to identify my true self, and that is the feeling that I can go back to again and again in my mindfulness practice. Alright, I hope you enjoyed part one of this Beginning part of my journey into my current mindfulness practice. Next episode is gonna be the details behind Starting really a purposeful gratitude practice. Again, you've heard how I was raised to be really grateful for what I have and so making all of these changes and wanting more. Even though I have now given myself permission, it's still felt uncomfortable to live my life. I felt a little bit adrift. And I had heard about starting up gratitude practice and how it can sort of change your brain and Reorient you to seeing the good in life and I thought, well, maybe I'll give that a try, maybe that will bring some more peace to me while I'm making all of these changes. And Next episode is gonna be the behind the scenes of starting that first gratitude practice what it looks like in my life as a full-time working mom and CAA and I hope it really is helpful and, you know, sort of instructive as well as just a Reassurance that this is possible for you as well in your life. Even if you feel like there's no possible way, you can add another thing I Want this community to feel like we have the resources to do anything we want, and so much of that is hearing how someone who's gone before you has done it in their own life To allow you to imagine what's possible in your life, and the real overarching message of all of this is that you are not alone and that I hope this awakened in essence. Podcast community Is the community that I had been searching for when I was on my own journey and I was turning to all these other people and voices and this older retirement community to find myself. I'm hoping to bring that all to this community right here, full of CAA's who are Happy with their profession. They're also reaching for more, or maybe they're in a period where they're really wanting to excel within the CAA Profession or take on leadership roles. I want to highlight all of those CAA voices to let us all know that whatever you want is Okay. You have permission to want the life that you want. You have permission to explore things, to try things, to realize. Oh, it's not that, let me try something different. I hope this community really holds you on your own personal journey, as I hope it holds me on my continued personal journey, because we are all in this together. We all deserve to feel good behind the drape. I really hope you enjoyed this episode. If you did, I would be honored if you would share it with another CAA in your life that is such a powerful way to expand the message of this Awakened in essence podcast is to share it with someone who you think would love it. Tell them why you think they love it and show them how to use the podcast app on their phone if they are new to podcasts. All right, till next time, talk soon. Ugh, it's literally. Why do I keep saying the wrong thing? Oh geez, okay, take 22.