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.

by Patricia Yarberry Allen, MD

It is so easy to focus on the things that go wrong on a daily basis — the petty annoyances of daily life — and yet so oddly difficult to recognize the joys.

I am often invited into the lives of people who are no longer pain free. They may be grieving for lost family or friends, or a way of life. Many are suffering. I know people who have reached a tipping point. They are on chemotherapy. They have lost their jobs. They have lost important relationships. And, understandably, they have also lost hope.

It occurred to me early last year, during a most difficult life transition of my own, that I could choose to embrace and enjoy the opportunities that life offers, while remaining connected to experiences that were far less than perfect. Remaining conscious of the possibilities, the adventure and the passion of our lives is a good antidote to loss.

I am developing a bank of good experiences so when the dark times come, I can withdraw those experiences through memory. By focusing on the good times when they are present, they become indelible. I have a formal way of doing this — a morning ritual to recognize the good in my life and to be, for that moment, full of gratitude and joy.

I recognize that I am not entitled to the day that I am in; that it is, indeed, a gift.

I take a moment to visualize this gift. It is the same size every day — the size of a Steuben vase box — substantial, but comfortable in my lap. The heft of the box feels luxurious. The wrapping differs day to day, overseen by a celestial gift wrapping consortium that creates the most magical and sensuous silks, velvets and patterned papers to cover my box. Ornaments of fresh flowers, jewels and sometimes music add to the beauty of the gift.

Before I open the gift, I think about the great expense, enormous creativity and effort expended in the production of this present, just for me. I know that my important box is not filled with crap.

I unwrap my box each morning and lift the heavy cardboard top. I look inside and find dozens of additional boxes, all brilliantly covered, magical and unknown gifts to be unwrapped throughout the day.

At the end of the day, I take stock. I am not organized enough to keep a diary, but I consciously store away the memories of my gifts each night. Then I close my meditation with a very strange focus: I give thanks for the day and accept with certainty that not only has this day ended, but that I am one day closer to the end of my life.

It is often easy to forget to be conscious of the wonder of our good fortune until it is taken away. Then, we remember how good it was when we hadn’t taken the time to notice. Finding time each day to be aware of the rhythm of my life has given me serenity — and an opportunity to search for grace. 2007 will have to be a spectacular year to compete with 2006.

Patricia Yarberry Allen, director of the New York Menopause Center, is a gynecologist affiliated with New York-Presbyterian Hospital and is on the board of Women’s Voices for Change.

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