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.