5 adults, 2 children: ages 6 and 2. 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and 1000 square feet. That, in short, is how my Thanksgiving weekend is being spent as my wife's family has descended upon our apartment for the holiday. The quarters may be cramped, but I've become an expert not only at keeping my niece and nephew occupied while the other adults cook (turns out my huge bag of Star Wars figures, a true testament to my geekiness, is worth its weight in gold) but also to hop across my apartment like a one-legged chicken navigating a minefield as I search for spots on the carpet that are not littered with sharp toys that are sure to give me tetanus.
I'm sure that a great many of you, despite loving your families as much as I love mine, are experiencing a "fight or flight" response to the description above. Just another aspect of the paradox that is the human experience--we crave social interaction and time with family, but at the same time even the most social of us needs space to ourselves and an opportunity to have some privacy. I struggle with this just as much as anyone else, perhaps more so as I often really enjoy time to myself, but I've found that some of the survival skills I've developed during my year and a half in medical school can be applied to this situation successfully.
Case in point: last night, after finishing the post-turkey dinner dishes, I managed to find a stretch of carpet near the entryway to our apartment that was completely barren. I proceeded to toss a kid's DVD into the trusty player to occupy the kiddos and then stretched myself out on that spot, closing my eyes and soaking in the calm. 15 minutes later, I felt completely recharged and ready to play "Uncle JungleGym" for another few hours.
Having been removed from my classes and studies for a whole 48 hours I was able to put aside the negative feelings I often have about school (my own little defense mechanism) and appreciate one of the small benefits that I've gained through my medical education. Namely, the ability to find a little peace in a field that is constantly bombarding you with things you should be learning, things you should be studying, things you should be doing to prepare yourself for the next stage of your career. Sometimes you just need to listen to that little voice in your head, the one that often gets drowned out by your professors, friends, and spouse, and realize that the most valuable thing you can do for anyone is to take a moment for yourself.
I hope everyone has a very Happy Thanksgiving, and is able to find at least one of these moments to let themselves just "stretch out."