Some people cross your life and teach you things that serve you for a very long time.

Dr. Jo Jackson, me and the delivery nurse just after the birth of my daughter.

I adore my family physician, Jo Jackson, MD. I’ve known her for a long time (since I worked in the Family Practice Residency at Swedish Medical Center during college) and she delivered my daughter. She’s intelligent, caring and offers amazing advice, health-related and otherwise. It’s a relationship I cherish.

I had an appointment with her recently; she was working with a 4th year medical resident. (The awesome Dr. Jackson also teaches residents and medical students and I don’t mind being part of a teaching moment if the appointment warrants.) As Adam The Resident was attending to me, Dr. Jackson updated my charts and I asked for her advice on staying upbeat during stressful times. “The best piece of advice I ever got was to do something new every day,” she counseled. “OK,” I replied. “But that may be pretty hard. I mean every day?”

“New experiences are good for you in so many ways,” she said, and then recounted a story.

“Things were challenging at one point in my work life. And one day I did something I had never done in my life. Not in medical school, not in residency, not as a physician… I called in sick. I simply had to get out of the environment by not going into work. I decided that my “something new” would be to ride my bike down a long, steep hill I had been afraid to tackle. I made it down safely… and at the bottom of the hill, there was a cafe. I went in feeling proud for tackling that challenge and stopped to enjoy a coffee.

The waitress there was clearly busy – I saw her struggling to seat and serve the customers already there – and it wasn’t yet lunch time. When she finally brought my coffee, I said I commented that she seemed rushed off her feet. ‘Yes, the waitress didn’t come in today. I usually host.’ As more people arrived, I asked if she wanted some help; perhaps I could seat the customers as they came in? She  relented and I acted as hostess,” Jo said.

That comment may be the most amazing thing I have ever heard from her. “What! You got up and hosted? Really?’

“Yes. And I wasn’t too bad. But guess who decided to come in for lunch that day?” She uttered the name of her boss at the time.

My eyes widened. “Then what!?”

“Well, we both stood there stunned and speechless. I walked him and his guest, to a table and was just able to hand him a menu.”

“Holy smokes!” I wondered aloud if there had been recriminations, blowback, a disapproving look at the very least.

“Actually, things were so busy I didn’t have any other interactions with him. At the end of lunch I rode and walked my bike up that very long, steep Madison Street to the top of Capitol Hill. It gave me plenty of time to consider my circumstances.

That day, two things happened: first, doing something new and second, taking a step away and getting a new perspective. I went into work the next day and I found I was able to bring that new perspective to the situation and eventually we reached a resolution.”

I keep her advice in mind. Although I don’t always do something new every day, I look for more opportunities to do so. And that has definitely helped me look at things from new perspectives.

Just like my doctor ordered.

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