She asked me with inquisitive eyes, the mother of a thirty year old man with the body of a two year old. I was surprised by her question. I mumbled. Then I said I have been a nurse for eleven years and I'll do my best and she will know if I'm good or not.
Had I straighten my spine and told her that I am an "excellent" nurse might have changed the course of the events of the day. Where did my response come from? From layers and layers of childhood experience to try to not be the best, or different, or from a culture that wanted me to hide my merits from fear of evil eye and others' jealousy? Living in America, where everyone boasts about themselves has not changed this deep sense of aversion towards arrogance. But today I see there is a thin line between arrogance and self confidence, or even deeper sense of self worth.
What happened yesterday was an eye opening experience for me. The mother proceeded to say, talking to her daughter as if I'm not there: but where has she worked? In animal hospitals? And she grinned. That comment was so confusing to me. I was not sure if she meant it as an insult to me, or to herself and her son, or to the animals. I mumbled something about not having worked with animals and proceeded to place an IV in the hand of her son, whom we saved from a lethal infection. The day got worse as we moved on, and at some point, I just asked the charge nurse to continue the care for him, since I could not take the abuse any longer.
I'm still trying to place the emotional trauma on a mental grid and try to make sense of it all. How deep is the level of this woman's wound? I cannot imagine what she has gone through. Or do I just call her crazy and impulsive and box her into a category? What most people in the healthcare field do, when confronted with extremes of pain or abuse. This way we get some space, separate ourselves from the "subject", establish our own sense of sanity and self hood, and make sure we are "Not the Other."
Sounds like the politics of our time?
Practicing a healing work that is energy based, I enter every encounter with an open heart. Today I am feeling torn in the mainstream medical system once again. I went through this feeling in 2013 when I was getting deeper into the healing worlds of acupuncture and polarity therapy. That time was more a mental process. I was realizing limitations of the medical options compared to the ancient wisdom of Chinese Medicine. I was feeling the frustration of knowing but not being able to implement my knowledge and skill in the hospital setting. Today my disappointment comes from a deeper level. It is an energetic level. What I have to offer does not match the setting of where I am placing myself. It's not a question of being arrogant. It's an energetic understanding. Today I know I can offer a deep sense of healing. I'm not just a good nurse, or even an excellent nurse. These words seem so empty... And if the patient is looking for this word for reassurance, if she cannot see deeper into her heart, how do I look at this encounter...
In the past years I have learned to separate the two worlds, those who come to me for private treatments and those that I encounter in the hospital. I value each person and give them what they are looking for. Sometimes I talk about having more options to people in the hospital so at least they know the possibilities exist. But generally I am content in both worlds, since each offer different experiences. The ER world is the exposure and encounter with people on levels and circumstances that I would not have otherwise. The acupuncture world is the allowance of entering deep silent channels that move one in all levels of life, physical, emotional, spiritual.
What this encounter means I do not know fully. But I feel it has set something in motion in me. A deep voice inside calling me to value myself, value what I have to offer. I know the value of it. But being able to translate it to the language of the people in this culture that is around me is the challenge. Since this is the place and time that is given to me to bring my work to the world, I have to learn to translate this inner knowing into a behavior that feels comfortable, without the fear of being arrogant. There is a thin line between arrogance and self confidence... And the answer is in the inner knowing.
Interestingly I had another patient yesterday that was admitted for a surgery. An incarcerated man, in pain and agony from the minute I saw him. Before he left he looked at me and stressed that 'I am a good nurse.' The irony of life.