Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Matter of Healing

Years of working as a nurse in hospitals, nursing homes and the community has given me rare insights into human behavior, especially as it relates to the unwell population. As I went about the tasks of taking vital signs, damp dusting a room, or just sitting on the edge of a bed holding a hand and teaching a patient what to expect during and after surgery a mini friendship was formed. After the necessary assessment based questions, there was always the open ended "how are you feeling?" Then I would just listen, as some of the most intimate worries and fears were spilled out. I offered no answers or solutions, just an interested pair of ears and eyes of empathy. I truly enjoyed my work back then. Then nursing became high tech, and it was hard to concentrate on listening when there were so many medications to be given, procedures to be performed and a timetable that barely afforded the completion of assembly line tasks. There was no time for that one on one interpersonal relationship. I tried to reestablish that special relationship with patients when I travelled to people's homes as a community health nurse, however that meant I was doing the exorbitant about of paperwork on my own family time and that wasn't really fair. Once a professional trust was established, many patient's would want to pour out their hearts about what was really wrong with their lives... frustrations, disappointments, bad relationships, or a host of other mental and spiritual anguishes. I found out first hand that illness is not just a random physical disorder, but one that involves a host of factors that fester below the surface until they manifest as disease. While I would always encourage a person to seek medical attention in the way they feel most comfortable, I think there is a means of healing that goes beyond covering symptoms and treating disease. The symptoms let you know something isn't right, and disease signals that something must be changed. One of the ways to get to the heart of the matter is through sharing thoughts. Think of a kindly stranger asking you, How is your life going? what would you say? I'm often amazed as some of the things I will say when I get on a verbal role with someone who has no reason to judge me at all. The key is to listen sometimes to your own conversation to see what is really going on inside. I believe we all the the capacity to heal ourselves, but it will occur a lot sooner if there was a network of healers who aren't afraid to reach out and touch someone with kindness, listen with empathy, and allow the light from the windows of the soul to shine compassion into the lives of others. Sometimes it can begin with a simple smile.

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