Questioning Fortitude, and what does this have to do with the jello-pit

I’ll get to the jello-pit part later.  

I’ve been really stressed out lately.  Clinic owners have a million and a half things to think about all of the time, but for several reasons this has been amped up for me and today, my heart blasted open because of it all.  I don’t think this will last forever or anything, so I figure I better write about it before I turn back into a badass. 

This made me think about cards and candles, specifically, the amazingly beautiful deck of cards my astrology teacher Corina Dross created, Portable Fortitude.   So many kinds of Protection, who knew?  Protection from Dangers only Dogs Sense, Protection from City Planning, Protection from Comfortable Delusions, Protection from Feeling left out when your friends haven’t called..but you haven’t called them either.  

And this one, the first one I ever saw on a candle:  Protection from Heartbreak.  Sounds good, I thought, let’s try that.  The first candle I burned definitely didn’t work.  Big heartbreak with that one.  So painful.  Kind of insane.  The kind you don’t want to ever happen again, necessarily.  Except then you go and do it again.  

So, like I said, my heart was blasted open today, and then I went to work.  Really looking forward to seeing all the people I knew I would see, the people I see every day or every week, the people at the cafe downstairs, the people on the street, the front desk person I love, all of the patients, whoever they were.  My first patient, a really good friend, came in telling me that he was really really frustrated because he couldn’t exercise anymore, that’s how sick he was.  Better than he had been, but still.  Having just been through the jackhammer of the heart, I told him it might help if he could cry.  I can’t, he said, I had to go on antidepressants because it was that bad.  Maybe go to a tearjerker movie?  Yes.  

Every patient I sat down with today was total meltsville.  I don’t, unfortunately, do that every day.  Most days, my heart is a little more guarded than that, I’m a little tougher, a little older, more tired or something.  But today I remember seeing a lot of eyes.  Another regular patient came in and told me about driving five hours each way to visit her brother in prison yesterday.  He had been in for nine years and had a 25 year sentence on his head for something he didn’t do.  She hadn’t seen him in two years.  She told me the story of how he, a black man, had been targeted because he was already in the system, because three women all somehow pointed him out as the one, because the lawyer sucked and there was no more money for an appeal.  I asked her if they were allowed to be close to each other, there in the prison while she was visiting her brother, and she told me that they weren’t even allowed to touch each other, even though she was his sister and not some other woman.  She told me about what a sweetheart he had been as a child, and about what a sweetheart he still was.  This all took a lot longer than the 10 minutes alloted, as we sat there both of us crying and holding hands.  My heart broke.  

So unprofessional, really.  Someone’s probably gonna comment that I’m violating HIPAA right now.  As my 5 year-old daughter would say:  I.  don’t.  care.  And if this is what heartbreak is like, I don’t want any protection from it.  I want this.  I love this job so much.  And I can’t fucking wait for the day when we’re the normal ones, the ones who break the rules and work in our socks and cry with our patients and look for the heartbreak.  

Just sayin.  

So… on to the jello-pit (coming soon to a CANference near you…)  

It’s not about fortitude either, apparently.  I just happen to love it when jello-pits fit the theme.   Winning and losing is not considered as important as having fun.  

And, what I want to know is:  

Who are you wrestling and why?   

Ellen Vincent
Author: Ellen Vincent

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  1. loved your blog

    Ellen, I don’t know anything about jello wrestling, so I’m on another planet on that one (expect I’ll get educated though if I hang around POCA), but you beautifully captured the spirit of our work which is being present for other’s hearts opening, and letting that open our own hearts, breaking down those barriers which separate one heart from another..of course we cry at times. I will choose being human every time over being professional.

    And the sad thing about someone who might accuse you of violating HIPAA is that – the story you share is happening to millions of young black men right now in America. It is tragically a very common story. Michelle Alexander writes about this in “The New Jim Crow”, a recently published book about how the criminal justice system in America is a push back orchestrated by racist mentality against civil liberty victories of the 1960s. 

     Jordan Van Voast

    Communichi Acupuncture Clinic, Seattle

  2. You work in your socks?

    I really want to work barefoot but am afraid of needle sticks.

    I’m wrestling myself and a health condition that I can’t seem to change no matter what I do.  It has made me completely rethink acupuncture and what we’re doing in the clinic – I used to think that with the right treatment, everyone would get better.  I mean, mostly better, mostly improved.  I have refused to accept that I might just be this way now and that has become a huge battle in my head.  But that is a topic for another blog, especially about the way it has affected my work and beliefs about healing.

    The jello pit is a good analogy.  You could write a jello pit/Buddhism blog entry.  It’s really unlikely that either person will “win” in a clear, hands-down kind of way.  It’s just more fun to think of it as going all out to keep standing in the onslaught of lots of goo and slippery muscle.  I could think of life this way.  What’s the worst that could happen? I could fall down.  We all fall down.  If I can laugh about it and not worry about the sequelae, the losing, it will sure as heck be a lot easier and a lot more enjoyable!

    When I crack open, patients just naturally put their stories in there and pry the two halves of my heart wider without even meaning to.  It’s good, usually.  It feeds my love of my job and my patients.  To see so many patients day after day, a little nourishment like that keeps me coming back fresh and happy to be at work.  Thank goodness for patients, really.  This job would be mighty empty without them!  In so many ways.

    Thanks, Ellen.


  3. Hippa nothing- who cares and

    Hippa nothing- who cares and really its just a guideline I say let it rip and bring on the jello.

    I think we can have the punks for hearbreak jello wrestling team – teeshirts will be heart jello molds that are bleeding a bit… 


    Peace sister- just my .02



  4. jello

    thanks for sharing ellen.  its great to be around people (even if it is *just* virtually) who love their jobs and love having fun. 




  5. Way off topic from this

    Way off topic from this wonderful and sweet post, but I’ve always wanted to work barefoot too, not as worried about needle sticks, more worried about “image.” Do people work barefoot???

  6. I love this

    “And if this is what heartbreak is like, I don’t want any protection from
    it.  I want this.  I love this job so much.  And I can’t fucking wait
    for the day when we’re the normal ones, the ones who break the rules and
    work in our socks and cry with our patients and look for the

    And I love you. (and your socks).