Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The shower has always been that one place in my world where I am able to physically be alone. Where I can stand stark naked and not even think twice about it. This place of vulnerability and nakedness isn't something I am willing to share any time soon, especially with an acquaintance. 

My work often requires me to enter my patients' place of vulnerability with that usually comes a bit of awkwardness, sadness and a whole lot of humility. It simply doesn't matter how "professional" you are with reassuring patients with phrases like "I have seen it all, no need to be embarrassed." Despite my best efforts there is always some level awkwardness because I am entering their home, their space, their vulnerability. 

The conversations usually start about weather trying to find some common ground, smoothing out the sharp awkwardness that is piercing the steamed air. Then sighs of frustration and apologies for their bodies shape and state start to surface. Their heads turn down humiliated as they try to reminisce of the good ol' days, hoping I will catch a glimpse of the person they use to be. This is where the sadness starts to fill me, "why are they apologizing to me?Is this what I have to look forward too? Someone helping me wash my folds and curves as I feel ashamed?" It feels impossible to find the right comforting words to put someone at ease who is literally baring everything out in the open physically and emotionally because simply they have no other choice. My first response is to frantically throw a compliment at them, half the time unrelated to them, "you have nice conditioner." I know that if my compliment was directly related to them they probably wouldn't believe me. With how many times I have already faced this situation you would think I would find the right words to say but I still stumble around trying to avoid what I am really thinking, afraid it won't come out right. 
I wish I could tell them that their bodies may be old and fragile but I believe bodies are marked from living life's battle, a battle that some are not lucky to fight. It may not be glamorous now but every scar is a souvenir representing their life. 

Those scars are reminders of where her breast once were, how they were able to fed each one of her children or how they were felt up for the first time. The colostomy bag that makes you think a skunk would want to plug his nose is a medal of surviving your fierce battle with cancer. Parallel scars that divide your knees are reminders of how hard you powered your legs across the court to earn basketball player of the year in 1943. That loose skin that hangs from your arms were filled with strong muscles that took you adventuring all over the world. 

This has been overwhelmingly humbling for me to share this vulnerable place with my patients. I watch them as they still struggle to let go of the person they use to be, not wanting to forget who they once were. Embarrassed of the hand life has now dealt them. I can't say that I wouldn't have the same response if the roles were reversed and I was the one sitting in the shower chair. It's hard enough to let the ones we love the most see our flaws let alone a stranger. 

I still don't know how to respond in these situations, so I encourage reminiscing and I listen. There is often some odd familiar comfort I see in their eyes when they remember their past and their victories. Their marks show a life that was lived bravely, giving it their all at each stage in their life and now I see their strength through their vulnerability. A strength that can be easily overlooked as weakness. I wish they could see the strength I see in them, not measured through muscle testing or time trials but through their ability to be seen through their stories and souvenirs. 

“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; 
it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when
 we have no control over the outcome.  
It’s our greatest measure of courage.” 
-Brene Brown

Friday, April 8, 2016

"Every head is its own world. 
I come for my dreams, and he comes for his."

- A guy from this American Life 'same bed, different dreams'-

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