Present and in Awe

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Try walking around with a child who’s going,
“Wow, wow! Look at that dirty dog!
Look at that burned-down house!
Look at that red sky”
And the child points and you look,
and you see, and you start going,
“Wow! Look at that huge crazy hedge!
Look at that teeny little baby!
Look at the scary dark cloud!”

I think this is how we are supposed to be in the world –
present and in awe.

~Annie Lamott Bird by Bird

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The Things in My Pocket

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We are about to celebrate the marriage of these two precious people this coming weekend
May they always share the poetry in their pockets.

 

Once I planned to write a book of poems entirely about the things in my pocket.  But I found it would be too long; and the age of the great epics is past.
~G.K. Chesterton from “A Piece of Chalk”

The waves haven’t come for my smooth glass yet (polished from the sea).  In the meantime, it is right here in the front pocket of the jeans I am wearing now.  I reach into my pocket for it a lot; it helps me write in some mysterious way…
~Anne Lamott from Traveling Mercies

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Open for Business

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

Astonishing material and revelation appear in our lives all the time. Let it be. Unto us, so much is given. We just have to be open for business.
~Anne Lamott from Help Thanks Wow: Three Essential Prayers

I have the privilege to work in a profession where astonishment and revelation awaits me behind each exam room door.

In a typical clinic day, I open that door 36 times, close it behind me and settle in for the ten or fifteen minutes I’m allocated per patient.  I need to peel through the layers of a person quickly to find the core of truth about who they are and why they’ve come to me.

Sometimes what I’m looking for is right on the surface: in their tears, in their pain, in their fear.  Most of the time, it is buried deep and I need to wade through the rashes and sore throats and coughs and headaches to find it.

Once in awhile, I can actually do something tangible to help right then and there — sew up a cut, lance a boil, splint a fracture, restore hearing by removing a plug of wax from an ear canal.

Often I find myself giving permission to a patient to be sick — to take time to renew, rest and trust their bodies to know what is best for a time.

Sometimes, I am the coach pushing them to stop living sick — to stop hiding from life’s challenges, to stretch even when it hurts, to get out of bed even when not rested, to quit giving in to symptoms that can be overcome rather than overwhelming.

Always I’m looking for an opening to say something a patient may think about after they leave my clinic — how they can make better choices, how they can be bolder and braver in their self care, how they can intervene in their own lives to prevent illness, how every day is a thread in the larger tapestry of their lifespan.

Each morning I rise early to get work done before I actually arrive at work,  trying to avoid feeling unprepared and inadequate to the volume of tasks heaped upon the day.   I know I may be stretched beyond my capacity, challenged by the unfamiliar and stressed by obstacles thrown in my way.  It is always tempting to go back to bed and hide.

Instead, I go to work as those doors need to be opened and the layers peeled away.  I understand the worry, the fear and the pain because I have lived it too.   I am learning how to let it be, even if it feels miserable.  It is a gift perhaps I can share.

No matter what waits behind the exam room door,  it will be astonishing to me.

I’m grateful to be open for business.  The Doctor is In.

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten