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No Decisions Post-Call

By Shanda McManus

August 18, 2022

A couple of months ago, I was feeling sluggish. I was weary from travel, work, and a foot injury. I found myself knocked out of my usual writing schedule. I began to fret over my memoir-in-progress thinking: Maybe this isn’t a good story to tell. Maybe I should just bag it and start over …

Then I remembered a rule I lived by when I was a resident physician: No decisions post-call. “Call” was every fourth night and entailed a 36-hour shift. I worked a full day through the night into the next day. When I could finally leave the hospital, I often had to search for my Ford Escort because I had forgotten where I had parked a day and a half ago. When I got to the daycare to pick up my preschoolers, a migraine made me squint on the drive home. One day, I vowed to quit my residency in one of these post-call pain fogs. Then, I ate a meal and had a good night’s sleep, and thankfully, I changed my mind. That’s how the no decisions post-call rule started.

So before I make any lasting decisions about my writing such as quitting a writing program or trashing a draft, I check in with myself. Am I well-rested? Am I well physically? Am I under more than the usual amount of stress? If the answer is “yes,” I don’t make any changes or decisions until I feel better.

Maybe if you are making a significant choice about your work, take some time and make sure you’re not feeling “post-call.” Eat a meal, take a nap, and then evaluate how you feel about your work-in-progress.

Shanda McManus has been featured in Intima Journal of Narrative Medicine, Midnight & Indigo, and other publications.