Remarkable, right? Seven weeks in, we’re almost halfway into the semester. It has flown by. I intended at the outset to post new and exciting things to this little blog space every week, hoping that I would be able to keep a week-by-week mini-journal of what was happening, what I was learning. What I’ve learned so far is that I am, apparently, not going to make time to write one of these every week. But I’ll try to update more often, I enjoy doing it.
I’m learning a lot, but more than anything else I’m learning how much I truly enjoy working with patients: really getting a chance to listen, to hear what people are trying to tell me, to look past the specific words being used and try to really hear who they are, where they are in their lives, what they are communicating about beyond, but also through, individual conditions or symptoms. I feel like I really get to be there with them, fully present, nothing else that has to happen in that timeframe, nothing else that needs to be going on in that space – just listening, palpating the pulse, paying attention to what is being said and what isn’t, and working to consider what I can do in our time together to help both their symptoms and help them along in their journey.
I know it’s almost trite to say, that many of us who work in healing professions say it all the time, but I’m healed as much by helping my patients as I am able to help them, I think. They heal me, the work heals me. While it is certainly part of my meditation practice as well, it is remarkable that, during that time in the treatment room, I can let go of the other noise in my head, I can stop worrying over things that might happen later or what has happened just before, and I can just be with a patient. Whether it’s using a needle or working with massage or cupping, there’s this real sense that “I” can dissolve and just be what I need to be while there.
I had an experience that broke me open a little the other day, and it wasn’t in the treatment room, but it’s incredibly apt. I was out running – I’ve been feeling less than great for a few weeks, and it was the first time in about two and a half weeks that I’d really been able to go out and run. I was about 2 miles into a 3 mile run, when a woman waved me down by the side of the road in a neighborhood. There was a piece of furniture being disposed of that she wanted to put into her friend’s SUV, so they could bring it to a mutual friend’s home that they knew was in need of some furniture. She asked if I would help lift it in, and I of course said yes. It took all of 2 minutes for the SUV to pull over, open the back, and help lift it into the back. The woman was incredibly sweet to me, said thank you over and over and – despite my protestation that I was really, very sweaty from running – gave me a big hug. We all waved goodbye, and I continued my run. When I was sure I was out of earshot, I shouted out a laughing “thank you” to the sky, the world. That brief opportunity to help, with something so simple, was this incredible gift. I had been so wrapped up in my thoughts, so busy with my own concerns over what was going on for me that day, what I needed to get done, what was working or what wasn’t working for me in school, that I had stopped really seeing the trees, the ground, the sky. This amazing moment, this gift of being asked for help, was so much more something healing, something beautiful. The woman said that God must have put me in her path to help. I agree, though I would say that she was put in my path to give me just such a gift.
And then, when I thought I was quite out of range, I heard someone calling loudly, and there she was at a corner stop sign some streets back, with her friend behind her asking – amused – just what she was doing. I ran back, and she gave me this keychain, a little turtle that she said should always be facing forward. She makes them and sells them, and she gave me one, just for lifting something for a second.
This is how I see my relationship with patients, and the clinic, in some ways. Ostensibly they are asking me for help. They’re there for help with some trouble – pain or distress of some kind. And I do listen, I truly do my best to hear, to know what’s being said to me both consciously on their part, and perhaps less directly. But then they give me this incredible gift, this vulnerability, this space where we can both be completely real with one another, to the best of our abilities, to see things as they really are. I am given this incredible opportunity to open up, to not hide, to not flinch from contact with another person or from the immediacy of myself. I’m at home there, listening, asking questions, working to help in the ways I can. And by being home there, it helps me wake up to the at-home-ness of each moment in my day, the simple solidity of the ground beneath my feet, the spaciousness of the sky as I breathe in.
Gratitude. I am incredibly grateful.