One of the basic, core ideas, of Buddhism is that the basic root of all suffering (Dukka, दुःख) is our desires and expectations. When dealing with something like a general surgery rotation, often when things are life and death for the patient, it might help to develop a sort of spiritual or philosophical framework for dealing with those stresses and maintaining mindfulness. However, I’m not going to talk about anything nearly so lofty in this blog post. I’m going to talk about something fairly basic, lunch.
When you have a typical office type job, or most hourly paid job, there is almost always an expectation that you will have time off to sit down and have a meal. In the middle of the day, this is usually lunch. For most paid positions, this is mandated by law. However, when you’re a busy medical student rotating through surgery, often such a luxury is not part of your experience. In a series of long OR cases, the scrub techs and circulating nurses may rotate in and out for meals and breaks, but often you’re busy for long stretches. Having a big breakfast is important, and I’ve already written about snack choices.
The key concept that suffering (and happiness) are all about expectations and desires was really reinforced to me in a recent evening conversation with a friend who has a busy office type professional job. She had missed her lunch that day because some meetings had run over, and it has basically ruined the latter part of her day. She had her usual expectation and desire for lunch and had missed it. On the other hand, my experience that day had been the opposite. I wasn’t expecting lunch, but had gotten a delicious, free caprese sandwich that day. It was all about expectation and desires. What felt like something taken away for her, was to me like a wonderful gift.
Maybe the Buddhists are right. Suffering, and happiness are all about expectations and desires.