How are you better?

Mercury is retrograde from June 7th to July 2nd. For those of you allergic to the woo, just skip this paragraph. To my fellow astrology-nerds, I’m curious: do you get an increased number of no-shows when Mercury goes retrograde?? We sure do. (I’ve started to keep track of Mercury retrograde’s influence on missed appointments and last-minute cancelations on my Mighty Stats spreadsheet. Will report full nerdy details in a year’s time.)

So I was reflecting this week on how glad I am that I’ve stopped taking it personally when someone stands me up. Having heard a broad range of breathlessly apologetic explanations in the last four years of punking, it is now, finally, very very easy to imagine that folks have a really good reason to keep me waiting, or, to not show up at all. At the clinic or elsewhere. (Yes of course we still remind people to come to their appointments on time.)

On a broader level in fact, this job challenges my ongoing self-involvement, which is a blessing. Focusing on someone else’s problems can be a dysfunctional escape from our own shit (thanks to Lisa R for the Melody Beattie recommendation!) but I reckon I’m finding the sweet spot these days. I still have several regular internal soundtracks including the Banal Self-Pity, the Impotent Fury, and (my favourite) the Petty Resentment, but get me into the clinic and being present for someone else and those loops quickly and quietly fade into the background, along with my impulse to jump in and “fix” something. A brief whispered exchange about someone else’s Hardest Thing has little room for my personality or cleverness, which is great for a chatterbox like me. I get to shut up and just impart warmth, interest and acceptance. The patients who like me the best are probably the ones who’ve heard me the least.

… Which is a nice segue into the delightful topic of my insecurities. I’ve got as many of those as anyone else (quite possibly more!) but I no longer need every single patient to appreciate my efforts. As Skip and Lisa pointed out in an early episode of POCATv: not everyone is going to like you. They’re just not. The more people I treat, the more possible it is to not take everything so personally, to more readily imagine that whoever it is who apparently hasn’t warmed up to me has their own personal reasons for not liking me … again, in clinic and out of it.

Admittedly this is an important life skill for anyone, and especially for someone working in a high-volume practice, but for a chronic people-pleaser like me, it’s been a huge step. (It does help that if you do this job long enough, enough patients will love you that it more than makes up for the occasional person you just don’t connect with.) This touches on another thing that’s gotten easier for me. Having a specific regular public caregiving role with very clear boundaries built in to the role has let me be a full-time caregiver in healthy ways. As Lisa R has said, most acupuncturists have a codependent streak a mile wide. I am by no means cured of this (check in with me in a few more decades, k?) but wow, is it ever easier to not feel chronically guilty for not taking care of EVERYONE when I am quietly poking a lot of people.

When enough suffering is reduced on my watch in the clinic, the constant banging You’renotdoingenough/ You’renotgoodenough/ You’resogoddamnlazy voice in my head is abated for blessed periods of time. Maybe if I work this job long enough, that voice will permanently fade. For now, I welcome any respite.

And speaking of respite, have you ever noticed that if you imagine a truly annoying person as your patient, snoring in a recliner with a tiny needle placed between their brows, it makes them instantly much more likable? Even when they’re texting while driving, or giving the grocery clerk a hard time for something that’s clearly not her fault or within her control, or placing a Vote PC* sign on their front lawn? Everyone’s got problems, right?

It seems as though my clinic-self, the warm & interested Lisa who can accept most folks where they’re at and help them to get some relief and have a nap, is slowly (very slowly!) but steadily spreading into the hours when I’m not at work. It’s funny how spending so much time with other people’s pain and suffering can make us better people. I’m forever grateful to my patients for helping me to become less of a self-absorbed & judgemental jerk.

How have you gotten better?

*That’d be the Canadian equivalent of Republican.

Lisa B.
Author: Lisa B.

Lisa prefers fireflies to fireworks, reverts to bluntness in stressful moments, would happily wear legwarmers year-round, and probably wants to be your friend.

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  1. Re: Mercury Retrograde, while in acu-school I worked the front desk at a busy massage clinic and asked myself the same question about no-shows. I had some free time and went back through years of no shows and cross referenced with M-R periods. From my single study I found that there wasn’t a significant increase during those times. I think the quantity may not change, but the quality may be worse during those times, like a string of them at once or ones that make a huge hassle for the clinic or confusion with appt times, etc. I’m curious to see what you find.

    As far as the other stuff goes (great post btw), whenever something pops into my head while I’m punking, like my personal problems, to-do list, what I’m having for dinner, etc. I hum to myself in my head until the thoughts clear. Kinda like when kids put their fingers in their ears – “LA LA LA. I CAN”T HEAR YOU!”

  2. Awesome, so funny.. Great visualization for the truly annoying. It’s all perspective my friends. As far as mercury retrograde, we have the same issue…Strange!

  3. We had a confusion last night when a patient was put on the schedule by mistake and then he showed up as a walk in (after not having been in for awhile). Maybe it was the mercury in retrograde.

  4. Thank you for your thoughtful post, Lisa. And thank you for being a lovely punk sister, too. I am grateful to know you.

    Here’s something the clinic taught me: Snoring. I used to cringe when a patient would start to snore. i was afraid it would wake everyone else up. It wasn’t until a few months in that I noticed a talented snorer can help the whole room sleep deeply. My perception of snoring has changed significantly. I actually LOVE the sound of folks sawing wood in the clinic chairs. When someone tells me they are worried they will snore, I often remind them it is a compliment to the acupunk and I mean it. Snoring makes me smile now.

    Yet another reminder that I don’t always know what is best. Imagine that!

  5. This is so much a better description of what I love about my job than I’ve ever been able to muster. Also, makes me want to get a tx there soon.
    Another one that my established-boundary punking job helps me give up: trying to be ‘smart’ to everyone. God, what a relief.

  6. What’s gotten better? and thinking about Mercury retrograde… well I’d have to say that community acupuncture has made me better at communicating more directly, with others, with myself, and especially around uncomfortable stuff. It’s kind of the inverse of having to please everyone- being willing to say things that might make someone, maybe even me, uncomfortable. I’ve gotten better at taking less bullshit and giving less of it too. I’ve gotten more clear at noticing when it’s my wanting to be liked that is interfering with delivering information that needs to be delivered.

    I’ve also gotten more, WAY MORE, organized. To do lists, calendars, online tools, clearing out old projects to make way for new, following up on shit. Getting better at this stuff makes taking on a lot of work more fun.

    Speaking of fun- and Mercury retrograde- doing this work has also made me realize that all work and no play- even when work is kind of like play-well all work and no play means your friends might think you’re a work-aholic. So I’ve gotten better at finding friends that are work-aholics too. (:

    And I’ve gotten better at knowing that sometimes you just have to put some things on hold and go for a walk or to the beach, or outside to lay in the hammock.

  7. Lisa B–you put such clear words to this experience! I’ve gotten better about not being so organized and plan-ful, because running an all-walk-in clinic, I never know what might happen during my shift, who I might see, or how long it will have been since I’ve seen them. In stark contrast to my previous work, being able to let go of the plans and welcome whoever shows up is now one of my biggest joys.
    Although I hadn’t yet made the connection to the hostile drivers in my life, I do notice that I have lost a lot of judgement (of myself and others) and I like a much more diverse cross section of the population in my recliners than when I first opened shop. I no longer notice the thought, “Will this patient fit in here?” coming up…and most patients choose to fit in.
    Thank you.