Split Personality

I almost changed the name of my blog today.

I read recently that if you are going to be a writer- you have to take yourself seriously and treat yourself like a writer. Huh? The idea being, that if you are going to take the time to write a story, you should have the balls to put your name on it and put it out there. Hiding behind an alter ego is fun but it might also be a cop out. I wasn’t sure if Gypsy Girl Jilly was real or a cop out.

My real name is Jill Anderson. There. I wish I had a neat story about how my Mom decided to name me Jill for some meaningful purpose – but the truth of the matter is that she couldn’t think of anything else. She was reading a magazine in the hospital after just giving birth and read an article about a person named Jill and she decided she liked it. Plus, Anderson is a long last name so she wanted something short so that I could fit my name in the allotted space on documents. Hence, I became Jill Anderson.

Nobody calls me that though. At least not people who know me. My Dad always called me “Jill the Pill”. He used to say I was a pill.  It may not have been a compliment. I was head strong, talkative, independent… pretty much straight out of the womb. I did my own thing from the get go. I don’t recall asking for much advice or permission from my parents when I was a kid. I just did it and either did not get caught or asked for forgiveness on the  occasions I got busted for doing something I shouldn’t have been doing or been somewhere I had no business being. When you are born the last of three girls to parents who are a bit older than regular parents… things happen.

Everybody else calls me Jilly. That is who I really am. Jilly loves dogs, reading, boat rides and adventures. Jilly loves to laugh. She has a soft heart and a long memory. She has the scars to prove it. Mostly, Jilly loves whatever is coming next. She can get antsy if she stays in one place too long or becomes stagnant in her daily life. She is a Gypsy. This is both a blessing and a curse. Being a Gypsy sounds good in theory, but day to day living requires fortitude when it comes to building a career and family…both of those areas have given me a lot of trouble in life.  Forever is a very long time.

I am about half way through my life. You would think that the urge to throw everything into the back of your truck and start driving West would subside. If anything, it gets worse. I am working on some ways to manage the urge to head for the hills. It seems counter-intuitive, but I have been making some changes in my life to become more structured. What?? That seems nuts. (That is GGJ talking.)

I am an optometrist. This May I will have been practicing for 22 years. Can you believe it? Me either. I became an optometrist because I wanted to please my parents and I was good at science and quite frankly I did not know what to do with my life. I was good at school so I kept going to school. People ask me if my passion is “eye stuff” and I say “Nope.” They can’t believe it. I think it is because I act fairly normal at the office.

For 18.5 years I worked as an employee for other doctors or for big corporations. I made a comfortable living and worked with some good people who became friends. I lived in a bunch of different towns and had a couple of houses and/or great apartments.

Eventually, I kind of settled down in my old hometown. I purchased a super cute house with a big yard with a little river running through the back. I spent a lot of time and effort fixing it up.  It was perfect… until one day I came home from working on a Saturday. All of my friends and family were out having fun. I took my beloved dog Macy for a walk. Something happened on that walk. I realized that I would not be able to spend the next 20 years working nights and weekends for someone else. If I was going to work this hard- it had to be for myself. I went home and looked up the For Sale ads for optometry practices in my area.

I found it right away. There was a listing for a small practice in Oshkosh, WI. It was a friend of mine who was retiring. I gave him a buzz. He had another interested party, so I had to act fast. I went to look at the practice the next day and two weeks later I bought it. In hindsight, it was a big decision and a normal person would have thought about it a bit. I am a leaper before looker kind of person. When it works out – its great, but when it doesn’t…well the drop can be a killer. This time, it worked out.

I bought the practice and worked hard to make it my own. Three and a half years later, I find myself being the happiest I have been in a long time. Optometry-wise anyway.  At the office I am Dr. Jill. Monday through Friday I am Dr. Jill.

My personal life has been a little schizoid. That can happen. Recently, I was forced to take a long, hard look at the choices I have made in my personal life. My life hasn’t exactly gone as I had anticipated. No husband or kids. No tattoos. Nothing permanent.

I would love to blame it on other people. Trust me, I have tried. That works for the first 25 years of your life but after that no one cares if your Dad loved you enough or being raised Catholic makes you an chronic sinner and guilt ridden person. At some point, you have to grow up.

I don’t think I ever grew up. Not really.

When did you start making decisions and acting on your own accord? When did you learn how to say “No.”?  When did you learn to walk away from people, places and things that were not good for you? When did you figure out what it was that you really needed to be content?

For me it happened…

It hasn’t totally happened yet. I am working on it.

Time has started to shift for me. In one way it has slowed down…and in another it has sped up.  My axis has shifted and thus the gravitational pull of my tides has changed.  (This is a little woo hoo, but stick with me.)  Even if all else has stayed the same… everything is still different.  Nothing stays the same. No one stays the same. To think it can be that way is…. unrealistic. It is a direct path to disappointment, resentment, dissatisfaction and ultimately failure. Failure to communicate, failure to thrive, failure to find peace.

Next year I will be 50 years old. Part of me thinks that it has gone super fast… and another part of me thinks it has taken forever. The old adage is true… time speeds up as you get older. The last ten years of my life has gone much faster than the first ten years of my life. A minute is not a minute, a day is not a day. Someone needs to figure out a new calculation for time.  It’s got to be a fraction equation. I always get confused when you try to multiply or divide fractions. You have to flip everything upside down and backward.

Let’s see… where was I? Oh yes. I am trying to be more structured in an effort to gain freedom.  

I am figuring stuff out. You can’t be a dodo bird airhead your whole life.

A lot of headache and heartache stems from worries about money. I haven’t always been the greatest when it comes to finances. It’s not my thing. But, it should be. So, I now have professional people in my life who help me. I am slowly getting over the fear that I will be homeless and eating cat food when I am old. It’s always there though. It has made me afraid. For a long time, I was afraid to buy a practice. It’s a big investment. Then I did it, and it’s been the best thing for me.

So, now I am taking it a step further. I just bought a building. Instead of paying rent to a stranger, I will be paying the bank to eventually own the building. It will take awhile… it’s a commitment. But, it’s a commitment to myself and my future.

101 High

I used to say I wanted to be free so that I could move away. Back when I was afraid to buy a practice, an old friend/vendor of mine that has known me since year one pointed out that if I wanted to move away I probably would have done so by now- having stayed in a one hour radius of my hometown for the last 18.5 years. That comment pushed me over the edge to buy a practice. He was right.

I am staying. Time to make an office that will grow with me and be comfortable.

The project is expensive and Dr. Jill will admit to feeling some stress and nerves about the whole thing. Gypsy Girl Jilly is loving it and is making friends with the demo guys. She is baking them cookies and can’t wait to get upstairs to rip out the old carpet to see if the wood floors are worth saving. There is an ancient old gas stove upstairs and she wants to keep it. Dr. Jill is hoping there will be enough $$ to get a new stove and new bathtub. GGJ doesn’t care.

Just when I was back to normal finances, I went and bought a building so now I feel broke again. Back to living frugally. Damn. Actually, it not that bad. I have found out a couple of things. Most of the stuff I really like to do is free. I love walking in the woods. That’s free. I love listening to music. That’s mostly free. I love reading. I used to buy a ton of books, but now I download them from the library. That’s free. I love writing little stories. That’s free. That’s a lot of stuff for free. Free- dom. I am getting there.

I am hoping that there will be enough spending money to do some traveling down the road. GGJ loves to see new places. A good road trip once in awhile should do the trick. Years ago when I was making lots more money, I went on a trip to New Orleans and stayed at the Ritz Carlton. It was super fancy and quiet. It was almost too fancy and too quiet. I was afraid to laugh too loud.

I will be satisfied to drive somewhere with the windows open and stay at a Mom and Pop place on the side of the road. Dr. Jill will be nervous about getting killed, but GGJ will see it as an opportunity to gather some story making material.

I can’t quite see my future all the way to the end. I feel pretty good about the next 15 years or so. I am going to be Dr. Jill at the office and GGJ outside of the office. I fought it for a long time. I have finally come to the conclusion that it is both of these sides of myself that make me a complete person. They need each other.

Gypsy Girl Jilly is the one who writes these stores. Therefore, she gets the title.












Reality Bites…Tastes Like Chicken

Yesterday was a day that started out all about me, me, me and ended up with me feeling a whole lot different at the end of the day.

Here is what happened.

GGJ was feeling grumpy. I admit it. My deck is in full flower bloom and the weather is finally hot and…. I am working. A lot. I am reading a new Daniel Silva book and haven’t had a chance to finish it. That alone is enough to put the grump on.

I was already worried about a friend. One of my dearest friends on the planet woke up a few days ago with double vision. As an adult, there are no good reasons for this. There are however a bunch of really bad ones.  So, it’s time for testing and waiting and more testing and waiting.

I had a full book of patients. About half-way through the day I met a lovely man in his late 60’s. Picture a tan golfer type guy. The first thing he said to me was, “I am having a few memory problems.”

I said, “That is okay. I went to the grocery store the other day for one ingredient that I needed to make a special recipe of cookies. Guess what I did?” He said, “Buy everything except that one ingredient?” I said, “Yep, no sour cream. There are no cookies in my house.” And we both laughed.

We were able to do the exam.  The brain is a weird thing. Apparently it has no problem remembering letters… F..Z..B..D..E.

But, it has problems remembering recent events like the British Open or messes up your ability to say what you are thinking. We were talking about stuff and all of a sudden he just couldn’t finish his sentence. I could see in his eyes that he knew what he was trying to say but just couldn’t say it. I told him it was all okay, that we were doing fine. And we were. We got the exam finished and he asked me to write a little note to his wife about the results and if he needed new glasses. I did.

As he was leaving we were talking about traveling and eating- two of my favorite things. He was telling me about loving white peaches from California. I said, “Ooh, you can use white peaches to make a Bellini- white peaches simple syrup and champagne.” He said, “Jill, I have been sober for 30 years.” I made a screeching of the tires sound and said, “Scratch that last part, okay?”  We both laughed again. We shook hands and went our separate ways.

Towards the end of the day my office manager came into my office and asked me if I could squeeze in another appointment for a patient who needed to get in TODAY. I looked at my schedule (it was full) and said, “Pick out a spot. Tell them they might have to wait a bit.”

So I busted my hump and gave it my all. The work-in patient had to wait for 15 minutes. As he entered my office I could tell by his demeanor that he was miffed. The first thing he said to me was, “How much is this going to cost me?” I told him. (Now, I was feeling miffed.)

We conducted the exam. It went fine. After our exam was finished he joined his wife in the waiting area. Ah-ha! Now I get it (and the office manager confirmed it.)

The wife was the one who called and made the appointment. She was the one who said he had to get in TODAY. To her, it was an immediate need. She probably did not tell him we were working him in. To him, we were 15 minutes late and he was spending his money. Neither one of which was on his list to do that day.

Perception. It is all about perception.

Years ago, I was at a health fair. I was selling a nutritional supplement and had high hopes. I was expecting a large turn-out. My booth was next to a therapist who does biofeedback.  She was an interesting and insightful person. She could tell I was disappointed by the lack of attendance. She said, “You are disappointed because reality isn’t meeting your expectation.”

Boy howdy, she nailed it.

Think about it. Most of the times when I get bent out of joint it is because reality isn’t meeting my expectation. What is that old saying/movie/soundtrack? Reality bites??

At the end of the day I finally caught up. Another doctor I work with came into my office and said, “You sure looked busy today.” This is a nice way of saying it looked like I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off. I told her about my day. We had a nice talk. She also has had a few reality checks lately. She has a friend who is going through a breast cancer scare and other friends who are going through some tough times. We decided in the grand scheme of things we are doing fine, just fine.

Here is the deal.

I was physically, mentally and emotionally able to work my butt off. I did not like it, but I was able to do it. That is a great thing.

My body and mind are intact. That is not something to take for granted. It can be worse. A lot worse.

I made it home last night and went to bed early. I woke up today refreshed and ready to write a little story and head back to work.

I don’t know what will happen today. That is ok. I can handle it.