“Perhaps the mission of an artist is to interpret beauty to people – the beauty within themselves.” ~ Langston Hughes.
To say that someone is ‘comfortable in their own skin’ is an interesting one. When I think about my parents (and it is amazing how often I do, considering that I am in my sixties, and my parents are long gone), I could say that my father was definitely one of those who was comfortable in his own skin. He never appeared uncomfortable walking in to any situation, he was open to whatever the world would throw at him. My mother, on the other hand, appeared far les so. But my father had a genuine curiosity about and interest in the lives of others, and an ability to have people open up to him, share their stories, their dreams, their troubles. Like any good parson, he was part therapist; part philosopher; part counsellor; part keeper of secrets.
One of the challenges of being a nurse is to be non-judgmental of people and their lifestyles. The first provision of the Code of Ethics (ANA) is that the nurse: ‘… practices with compassion and respect for the inherent dignity, worth, and unique attributes of every person’. Unfortunately that can be challenging to do! But the old adage that you should imagine walking a mile in someone else’s shoes (or even shoeless, for a person who has no shoes) goes a long way to helping you realize that unless you know a person’s story, you should not judge them.
In working in administrative roles for a lot of my working life, I have learned to hold back, to think before I speak, to filter out the instinctive first thought. I have learned to do that especially in emails, when responding to complaints or accusations. The first line should always be empathetic, even when your mind is screaming ‘What are you talking about?’ Thank goodness for the ability to delete and rewrite! No longer do we have to rip paper out of typewriter like the writers of old, surrounded by crumpled up wads of wasted paper. For the most part I have mastered the art of practicing patience when dealing with tricky situations face to face; allowing people to talk, letting them air their grievances, then trying to help them see another point of view, another perspective. I am not so sure that I have learned to filter my facial expressions, in fact I am now looking for a face filter for my Zoom meetings, as it seems my expressions speak louder than my comments!
This week has been challenging on the political front. The Supreme Court’s ruling on abortions is triggering many restrictive laws that will make life difficult for those who are placed in the distressing situation of an unwanted pregnancy. This is not an easy topic to broach, since feelings are so strong on either side of the issue, but it is clear that the rights of women are apparently less than the rights of the potential life they carry. This contrasts mightily with the other big political story of the week, of a man who felt he had the right to overturn an election to maintain power, regardless of the threat to the lives of others.
It is at these times of tremendous contrasts that is the most difficult to respect the beliefs and attitudes of those who hold opinions opposite to our own. This is when we have to remember the exhortation to ‘judge not, lest we be judged’. For if we believe strongly in something, how can we say that others don’t have the right to their beliefs? Truly challenging when it appears that the rights of the few seem to take precedence over the rights of the many.
This week I read somewhere that we should see the planet as an organism, and the entire human race and all that dwells on the planet as a part of that organism. Just as the human body is made up of cells and tissues and organs and systems working together, we could see the world in the same light. Perhaps when we look at it that we, we can better work together for the good of the whole.
This Friday morning I will try to honor the practice of holding space for others, to allow for the existence of points of view different from my own. I will trust that there are enough people of honor who stand firm in the face of threats to democracy, even an imperfect one is better than the authoritarianism that was banging down the door last January. And I will try to fix my face which so often reveals the frustration that I think I am concealing inside!
Have a wonderful weekend, Family!