One year ago I had an accident which abruptly halted my life.
In reflection, it has been one of the best things that has ever happened to me.
Although I suffered physical, emotional and psychological pain, this experience drew me closer to my creator and allowed me to start an adventure of a lifetime!
It has been a year of immense personal growth in my spirit and walk with God but also in my confidence, energy and my purpose in this world.
With your permission, I’d like to share with a few of the highlights and lessons that I learned in 2018, which God impressed on me as the year of “courage”.
“Have I not commanded you?
Be strong and courageous.
Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
Lessons in 2018
– My identity is in Christ
– An adventurous life is one grounded in faith
– Stop caring what others think about you
– Life is short, prune relentlessly
– Life is stewardship, use it wisely
– Leveraging your skill and passion with opportunity gives meaning
– Public greatness is born through private battle
– Intentional self-care is the center of energy and longevity (My favourite)
This is a long post, a review of an unbelievable year, so feel free to skip forward or read in segments.
My identity is in Christ
It was utterly devastating to injure my arm.
Not only could I not work as an anaesthetist and doctor for several months, but my inner world also fell apart.
I realised that although I confessed to God as my saviour, the centre of my life and everything I lived for, the sad reality was that my identity was in who I was, being Dr. Jonathan Ramachenderan.
My idols were money (in the form of work and resources) and my status (being a doctor and who I was creating my life to be).
It took losing my ability to work as a doctor for a period of time to realise that I was living for the praise of others, status and to accumulate for myself.
Peeling everything back, God showed me that he loved me unconditionally and that sometimes our lives can derail unintentionally and instead of putting my hope in MY ability and MY strength and MY talents, to rest and put my hope in him.
I remember the moment he showed me this powerful truth.
It was in my garage gym, exercising, my left arm in a sling and listening to this song.
The feeling of God’s unconditional love overcame me.
It was visceral, palpable and unmistakable.
I wept. And wept, as I felt the unconditional acceptance of my Father wash over me.
“Oh how he loves us, we are his portion and he is our prize….if his grace is an ocean we’re all sinking” Dave Crowder 2015
There is nothing like the love of God.
As practical as my “cause and effect” beliefs are as a doctor, scientist, and well-read gentleman, nothing can quite explain the supernatural power of God and Love of Christ
God is real.
He lives and he desires a relationship with you NOT religion or ritual…a relationship.
I am Jonathan, forgiven child of God. A servant leader and ambassador of Christ, this is my identity on earth.
Faith is an adventure.
2018 taught me that living by faith is the only true adventure in life.
Do you want to live an interesting life?
If so, then you need to have faith.
“The only way to live a life which no one has ever lived before, is to live by faith”
If you already have a road-map by which to live, showing the turns to take, the stops to make and people to meet, it is very likely that you are living somebody else’s life.
It’s not wrong to have goals and a plan, but 2018 taught me that if I truly want to live out the purpose of my life, I don’t need to see everything laid out ahead.
You were created uniquely to make your own journey.
This is faith:
“Faith is being sure of what you HOPE for and CERTAIN of what you CANNOT see” Hebrews 11:1–2
As 2018 began, my left arm was weak and numb from immobilisation and surgery.
I had left General Practice to pursue a dream and passion that I’d found and that God had placed in my heart — to work, serve and lead in Palliative Care.
There was no guarantee of work after August and there were no other GP Anaesthetists who “worked for themselves” in the Great Southern.
BUT impossible is where God works.
2018 taught me to lean HARD into God’s promises by faith.
I was CERTAIN he’d called to be a Palliative GP and I placed my HOPE in him, NOT my ability, NOT my connections and certainly NOT the Government!
Not only did we find funding for a newly created position in a hospital environment where no spending was occurring, but 2018 was a year of immense growth in my skill as an anaesthetist and palliative care GP and not mention resource.
So tell me, how many doctors do you know who practice in Pain, Palliative Care and Anaesthesia exclusively?
Not too many.
And that is the adventure of faith!
Unique and better than you could EVER imagine.
Fearing what others think is a deadly trap
“The fear of man is a trap but those who trust in the Lord will be kept safe” Proverbs 29:25
The backbone of courage is living a life apart from the opinions of others and fearing what they may say.
COURAGE isn’t an absence of fear but the act of stepping forward INSPITE of fear with FAITH!
2018 has taught me that to be courageous, stepping forward in a new direction, you’ll have block out the opinions of others!
I have been a people-pleaser and have sought the approval of others for as long as I can remember and this has been to my detriment.
With a fire inside of me, 2018 was the first year I truly understood the impact that living to please others was having on my life.
I think that we all intuitively know this, but to live it every day and to boldly resist the temptation to please others in our decisions, is a game-changer.
Wayne Dyer in his wonderful talk about being a “No limit person” discusses those who seek the approval of others and live and die by what others think.
In a strange paradox, those who live intentional lives with no limits, tend not to care about the opinions of others and by doing so with such confidence and focus, are the ones who often receive praise and commendation — but don’t need it!
Conversely, those who live and work for the praise of others RARELY receive it and live deflated and confused lives.
Live for the audience of one.
Live intentionally and bring success to the direction you’ve been called.
If you live your life to please others, scared of what they think of you or could do to you, you’ll never be free.
The fear of man is a snare, a trap, a weight around your ankles, dragging you down, keeping you from your potential.
This year, what started as a private joke with my sons (I bet them that boys can indeed wear unicorns), has become a symbol and daily reminder to live free from the opinion of others.
It looks ridiculous and consistently catches the eye of patients and people I meet, but it reminds me to live boldly with courage.
Stop caring what others think and live!
Life is short, prune consistently
More perfectly than I could have ever imagined, the start 2018 aligned two thoughts that had been percolating within me.
Life is short, don’t live with regret.
I had seen first hand the unfair and cruel reality of cancer, particularly in younger patients and reflected upon the greatest source of existential suffering in my palliative care patients — regret.
My synthesis fell together especially after reading this brilliant article by Paul Graham.
“Cultivate an impatience about the things that you most want to do….relentlessly prune”
In my world, I saw how easily my life suddenly changed and that accidents do happen.
Cancer doesn’t discriminate and age and time inevitably bring disease, frailty and eventually, death.
With that in mind, I wanted to be the person “who got things done”, “lived with intention and “removed the unnecessary constantly”.
At the start of 2018, I placed this daily reminder in my diary:
The only way to live your best life is to prune it constantly.
This year, individually and as a family, we pruned.
As a family, we pruned our weekends back to only Church on Sunday morning and basketball for Samuel on Saturday — this enabled us to disconnect from “busy”, replenish ourselves and draw closer as a family.
In 2018 these are a few things that I pruned from my life:
The news (television and newspaper), every unnecessary meeting, all my email subscriptions/notifications/offers/shopping to nothing and then started adding as I needed.
Be a relentless pruner.
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener.
He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more
John 15:1–2 (NLT)
*Prune in this verse is “cuts off”. As we remain in God and allow him to work in us, he “cuts out” aspects of our lives which are hurting us spiritually.
Life is a stewardship
“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much” Luke 16:10
If you cannot use what you’ve been given with integrity and diligence, you’ll never be given more.
This is one of the most interesting and applicable laws of life which finds its grounding in the teaching and times of Jesus.
How often have you seen this in our modern world?
If you don’t use your money, time and energy wisely, you will lose it.
In my world, if you waste and disregard your health and body working endlessly for more and more, you’ll spend the rest of your life and money, trying to regain your health.
The care of your health and body is stewardship, rewarded in energy and the absence of preventable disease.
The care of finances is stewardship, rewarded with being able to trade money for good times with family and friends and peace of mind in emergencies and retirement.
The care of your energy is stewardship, rewarded with career progression, better relationships, a well rounded and balanced intellect, and a well-rested body and mind.
The care of your marriage is stewardship, rewarded with deeper intimacy, the greatest pleasures and a replenishing relationship that doesn’t need Valentine’s day for fuel.
Use your time, money and energy wisely or you’ll lose it.
Leverage skill and passion with opportunity and go for it!
As an intern said to me earlier this year “you have the best in the hospital!”.
I have to agree with him because working as a Palliative Care and Anaesthetic doctor in regional Australia is an answer to prayer and a daily adventure of faith.
If you are blessed to find something that you love doing which intersects with your skills and talent and most importantly pays the bills and more, go for it!
Next to becoming a doctor, finding my passion and purpose in caring for people at the end of their life has been life-changing.
Let me start by clarifying that my passion was FOUND in the most unlikely place (Aged Care) after trying many aspects of medicine for over ten years.
As Cal Newport says, passion should form/develop as a function of your skill and your love for the work rather than the sole driving force.
Finding my tribe in medicine as a Pain and Palliative Care Doctor was a journey in finding how my skills and love for working with people at the end of lives, aligned.
The opportunities were God opening the right doors in my life.
I have no idea what is going to happen next in my career and that is exciting!
In October 2018, I was awarded my Diploma of Palliative Care Medicine through the Royal Australian College of Physicians.
It is my physical reminder of faith in action and therefore means the world to me.
Public greatness is born through private battle.
This is a post in itself but it is my firm belief that every significant person in history, struggled in private, long before they were ever public figures, standing in greatness and leading a revolution in their chosen field.
Great entrepreneurs, political figures, social justice leaders and our legendary sportswomen and men all battled against will, adversity, negativity and self-doubt in private long before they were ever elevated to positions of prominence.
In 2018, my private battle was with significant self-doubt and anxiety upon returning from injury.
But as only God can do, he brought wise counselors into my life and he led me to the wonders of meditation and self-compassion which have changed my inner world.
When you watch me calmly break bad newsor intubate a patient with falling oxygen saturationsor place a tricky epidural or conduct a difficult family meeting, understand that a significant amount of private work and battles were won before that fateful moment.
All greatness is born in private battle.
Intentional self-care is central to longevity, happiness and being a badass
The extent for which you care for yourself, will determine the extent that will be able to care for others and live your best life.
Have you noticed how common it is to be tired?
Almost everyone is tired.
Why is that?
It is because “tired” has become our new normal and someone who is rested, full of energy and passion is unusual.
2018 marked the year that I decided that I would become a self-care expert in my health and wellbeing.
I undoubtedly have a difficult job which I love and have a family and responsibilities which are the pride of my life.
But if I am tired, listless and burnt out, it will not serve me well.
My intentional self-care plan began with recognising that my daily work is complicated.
It involves dying, suffering, pain, and distress — every day.
Young patients are the ones that hit the hardest, especially those who have children the same age as mine.
How do I thrive and not simply cope? (this is another post in itself)
Well, once you’ve tasted peak fitness,rest in amongst the busyness of life and calmness in your mind and body, it is madness to return to an unintentional life that doesn’t replenish you.
This year I’ve said “no” to many invitations, pointless obligations and simplified our family life through pruning.
Here is a glimpse at my Self-Care plan:
Saturday is my Sabbath and rest day. I don’t do anything that I don’t want to. If you invite me out, the answer is likely to be no…I’m sorry.
I exercise most days (5–6x week), write every morning (in my diary and have quiet times with my bible and a fresh cup of coffee at 5 am. These have become my daily morning habits, they prime my conscious state and prepare me for battle!
Our family holidays are epic, extravagant and private.
Kylie and I spend time regularly with each other — dating, talking and doing “other stuff”.
We have our 5th “kid-free trip” in January to Adelaide to eat for 3 days.
I make it a priority for the boys and I connect daily and “live for adventure”.
I have a spiritual mentor who I see every month and another senior doctor who I discuss my clinical and work issues with — life-changing.
I don’t say these things because I am a self-care super-star but a man who has burnt himself out several times living unintentionally with no replenishment.
I am a student of self-care.
These are the actions I take every day, every month and every year to live as Jonathan Ramachenderan, Pain and Palliative Care doctor, husband to Kylie, dad of three boys and child of God.
Thank you so much for all your encouragement in 2018. It has meant the world to me.
Writing, like all art, is vulnerability and its taken many years for me to have the courage to publish my thoughts.
My intention in 2019 is to write pieces regularly on Self-care, Palliative Care, being a husband and dad and most of all being a believer in Almighty God — the Father of Compassion and God of all Comfort.
2019 will be the year of “Focus” for me.
What is your vision and word for 2019?
Enjoy your best health in 2019!