This Isn’t It

dr archer atkins looking out over dock

I was at the clinic with a good 5-10 minutes before my next patient was scheduled to arrive.  It was the day of my daughter’s 6th birthday — I was planning to leave early from work that day, and we were having a little family party that evening. Things felt hustled, being at work on her birthday, and I had been up really late the night before making her homemade gluten-free vegan chocolate beet birthday cake. So, I do what I usually do when it feels like there’s too much activity in a short amount of time — I self soothe by checking my phone.

There were a few texts from my mom, who I call Mama Crow.

Mama Crow: “Are you OK my beautiful bright eyes?”

Me: “Yes, why?”

Mama Crow: “…I dreamed you have tears in your eyes with a smile in your heart. Something is not right.”

I don’t talk to my mom too often, let alone receive texts about her dreams. I don’t know if she’s ever had a dream about me before. I found it even more interesting that I received this text from her on my daughter’s birthday, with all the history surrounding my daughter’s birth.

Her text made it difficult to halt the tear production factories, which then made me worried about salty wet eyes ruining my non-waterproof mascara.

“How does she know!?”, I thought to myself, since she doesn’t have Instagram and hasn’t been following all my somber heart barf on there. I’ve been very honest on Instagram, and my Instagram account is public. I have this drive in me to inspire people to be as real and transparent as possible, because it heals and makes the darkness a tiny bit lighter. I’m just as human as anyone else — I go through dark seasons too. We all do. It’s part of the human experience.

Her text hit the spot — the spot that makes you stop, stick your finger in the air, furrow your brow, and say, “There is something really significant here.” When things in my life reach this place in my heart, I often respond with this automatic, audible humming. It just happens. It’s consciously unstoppable. It even happens in coffee shops when I’m reading or writing something really good. The last time this happened, I got to know a Seattle lawyer at Victrola, who asked me in the most emphatic voice ever, “Are you ok?”.  I do funny things when I’m onto something really juicy.

Sometimes dreams are a mess of biochemical nonsense. Other times they are a big deal. When dreams hit that spot, pay attention. We need to look into the dreams that catch us, like a rough hang nail that snags a new pair of stockings. Those are the kind of dreams that are trying to squeeze the blood out of our ventricles with a special message.

My curiosity propelled me to talk to God about my mom’s dream. I wanted God to be my fortune teller. This “going to God” business may make me seem more pious than I am. The truth is that I tend to shy away from God more than I go to Him because I struggle with trusting that He’s a good guy. If I am unsure of His goodness, telling Him my secrets or asking Him vulnerable questions doesn’t sound like the best idea. A lot of bad things happened and there are wounded places in me where I still can’t make sense of God’s goodness.  But then there are other places in my story, where I can clearly see God’s goodness, like that time I ran away from home on a Greyhound bus and it worked out beautifully. Most days I know that God is good, but with my kind of history, it doesn’t come easy.

For several days I pushed through my tendency to shy away from God. I timidly asked, “What does this mean?!”, while I waited and listened for an answer. I’m not good at sitting, stillness, waiting, or patience. And then, waiting on God?! God! To really tell you the truth, if God stayed smooshed up in a magic lamp and only came out to give me answers, he wouldn’t seem so intimidating. I have a deathly fear that God is busy getting His best pants on for the rapture so that He can come to Earth, take His people, and give me the silent treatment because I’m going to Hell. But I also know that He can work with this. He’s God, after all. He can work with the people who are trying to listen but trying to get away from Him at the same time. He can work with people who think God’s goodness is limited to genie status.

Despite my God issues, and the days where I’m not so sure of His goodness, I heard something back. I can’t remember the timeline of when I heard this, but I know where I was. I was at home, sitting on the brick hearth in front of the cranked up gas fireplace after my girls had gone to bed for the night.

“This isn’t it.

These words resonated deep into my heart, ruined my make-up, and gave me embarrassingly swollen eyes at kindergarten drop-off the next morning. They pertained to my career as a naturopathic doctor. I was in the wrong place. Everyone told me to leave. I was the only person telling myself that I needed to stay. Now God seemed to be agreeing with everyone else, and He decided to include my mom in on it too.

You see, I am not in the naturopathic doctor business to pay my bills. Well, I do need to pay off my $200,000 worth of student debt and monthly loan payments are barely affordable. Yes, I need to make money because I owe a lot of money. But I didn’t sign up for this gig for the money. I signed up because I believe that I was made to do this. It fills up my buckets to help others heal. That’s what I want to be doing with my time on this earth — getting people well.

When you feel like everything you were made to do and be isn’t working out, it’s more than devastating. The tears in my mom’s dream were symbolic of the grief I had while feeling stuck in a place that made me want to call it all off. “I’m done being a naturopathic doctor”, I told the Wendy’s eating husband several times. “It’s not worth it. It cost me too much.”

But then in the midst of these dark times, when I was ready to quit, I’d get an email from a patient telling me that I was their last hope for getting better again. Because they had known the suffering of sickness for years. And then I would have hope again, because that used to be me.

This answer from God helped me tie it all together, “I can’t quit now, this just isn’t it.

With tears in my eyes, and a smile in my heart, I will be starting my own practice, which will hopefully be ready to go this fall 2015. Want to know what it’s called?

Archerfriendly Wellness

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8 Responses

  1. Pragati // Simple Medicine

    Congratulations, Dr. Archer! I’m so happy for you and excited to follow along on the next steps in your journey. I love, love, love the name of your practice.


  2. Kelly

    Archer! Your heart is so very lovely! You are a bright light in this world and I thank God for you! You WERE made for this. For heart and body wholeness so that others can go be who they are called to be. I’m joyful for you that you are tightly wrestling through this. Many will be rewarded from your hard work, including you! I’m so thankful for you!!!


  3. Kelly

    Lol. I meant RIGHTLY wrestling through this. Hugs!!


  4. Lyndsey

    So freaking proud to know you, Dr. Archer! Thank you for sharing your journey so openly. This is the best news I’ve heard all day!


  5. Laura

    I enjoy reading your stories, Archer! You are such a strong person, and I know you are making a difference in the lives of many. I wish we could have met up for a good, long chat when I was in Seattle last week. I’m sure we could have talked for hours. I know what it’s like to want to write but to feel very exposed and vulnerable. I have my own blog, and the entire day after it’s posted, I’m quite nervous. It’s personal, but not really really personal, so I’m not sure what I’m so afraid of. You should be SO PROUD of yourself for chasing after what you really want in a career. Being a naturopathic doctor was not “it” for me, but I am so happy where I am now. I cannot wait to see what unfolds for you! Keep changing lives, Archer!


  6. Jason

    Thank you for the myriad ways you have helped my wife. You have made a big difference in her life, physically, even emotionally and spiritually. So thank you for listening to God even when He’s just speaking in quiet one-liners. Thank you for your heart to help people. – another Wendy’s-eating husband


  7. Janet Croneberger

    Archer, I think you are very smart at this stage in your practice to have your own practice. You will be able to have a better connection with your patients and I believe it will give you a little breathing room. I wish you the best will keep you in my prayers for peace in your soul about your decision. Janet C.


  8. Laurie

    Thank you, Dr. Archer for sharing your heart. Your words continue to inspire me and give me hope to press on. Thank you for not giving up! I’m very much looking forward to seeing you in the Fall.


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