Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. is a Gynecologist, Director of the New York Menopause Center, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Assistant Attending Obstetrician and Gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is a board certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Allen is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Board and the Women’s Health Director of The Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCCC). Dr. Allen was the recipient of the 2014 American Medical Women’s Association Presidential Award.

I began this morning as I usually do, counting my blessings, before getting out of bed. I am a woman of Irish/English/Scottish ancestry, whose forebears came through the Cumberland Gap long ago; they settled in primitive Southern lands, with hunting and fishing and topography that reminded them of the soil of the homeland they left behind. I may have bits of the Scots and the English in me —but Lord knows, my temperament is all Irish. Counting your blessings with this temperament is a hard thing to do. Finding potential disasters, now that is another thing.

I have always fought with mornings. And by the way, who invented mornings? I hate the dawn unless I am visiting it as the end point of a long night out. And fate, that bitch, has forced me for much of my life to be up with the roosters, not bedding down just as they crow.

I am one of those people who can only open one eye in the morning, both physically and emotionally. One cautious look around to see what the hell is up already. No one speaks to me in the morning.

Not that this would surprise you after this brief introduction to my morning self. So: I open that baleful eye, get the general lay of the land, then close it again, quickly. Then the work starts.

I begin morning meditative breathing for three minutes. Then I sit up and have a bottle of water, while looking at the view out of the floor-to-ceiling windows of my bedroom over the Sound. Boats are bobbing in the water now, even though it is too early for any but the most intrepid sailor to be heading out. Although many boat people do like their drink, most are safe in the harbor before dawn.

Next comes the visual experience: opening the gift of the day that I have been “given.” I talk about this a lot, because it is such an important part of my daily salvation. I visualize this important Steuben vase sized box. I feel the heft of it in my lap. It has been wrapped by a Hollywood gift wrapping consortium and every day the wrapping and bows and trims are different. Sometimes seasonal, sometimes musical, velvet, silk, damask, lace, linen, bells, dolls…the imagination of these gift wrapping people astonish me anew each day.

I unwrap my gift carefully, lifting the important heavy top off the box. I take a deep breath before I look inside, because I know that there will be an astonishing present created just for me in the gift box of this day. Each day, it is the same. Dozens of individually wrapped boxes are there for me to open each day, all day long. These boxes contain conversations with patients, consolations for those who are in need and the joy that always comes back to me with this work. Boxes and boxes of unexpected interactions, bits of glory that I will put away in my special memory box to take with me through this life.

So, work over. She who may not be spoken to may be given her coffee and become civilized, with only one cup of Eli’s special coffee — brewed by the husband who has been up for hours already. I count my blessings that begin with the gift of the day, the view from the window, the smell of the coffee and most of all, the husband that I cherish.

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  • Elizabeth W. July 11, 2009 at 12:01 am

    Your words made me laugh, and oh boy, did I recognize myself!I raise my coffee cup in salute to a fellow reluctant riser, greeting the sunlight with one eye open!

    I’ll have to try those visualizations though.
    Counting blessings has always been a night thing for me- my godmother sang me to sleep with a lullaby about them.