Tuesday was a whack-a-mole day. One thing would go wrong, I would begin to fix it, only to find something else needed fixing, too. Details with new bank accounts (have you tried opening a new business bank account lately?), an incorrect tax bill from the city where I now live and do business, hiccups with our new phone system, and myriad technical problems with the ongoing redesign and redevelopment of the APHA membership website…
But Wednesday and Thursday, two experiences combined to give me new perspective, one I’ll share with you in hopes it will help you weather those whack-a-mole days when you need a new perspective, too.
Wednesday I encountered the following, a quote from Charlotte Joko Beck. Joko Beck was an American teacher of Zen, something I can’t claim to know much about – at all. But her words spoke to me… and helped me begin to put (what my colleague and friend Steve Okey calls) my “first-world” problems into perspective.
It has happened before in my life many times, and I am sure it has happened in yours, too. Those “guru moments” where you realize your experiences have become your teachers – where you really think about an experience, process it, and embrace it. A simple example is our abilities as human beings to learn lessons the hard way. Once burned, twice shy, and all that…
The key to making them guru moments is to embrace them, both the positive and negative, and actively learn from them. Not just a glance, or a dismissed experience – an active choice that improves our own lives, our loved one’s lives, and – for us as private care professionals – our clients’ lives, too.
So… Thursday morning I took my early morning walk, and as I rounded the corner, almost home again, I noticed the caterpillar – as seen above. THAT was the moment my perspective on all those Tuesday whack-a-mole problems changed, and where the lessons became apparent.
The caterpillar became my teacher. His demise represents how patients are treated by the healthcare system. The system is represented by those ants – just preying on that creature. Metaphorical, of course. But no less frightening and life-destroying for that caterpillar than the system can be for our clients. That is one major reason clients engage with us. They just don’t want the interface with the system to destroy them – not their health or their financial security.
Encountering that poor caterpillar and the system that consumed him was my guru moment. It motivated me to get back to my desk and back to work with more zeal than I had before my walk. Life lesson embraced! I would not let those moles I’d been whacking frustrate me further! I had important, advocacy-and-advocate support work to do.
As private, independent advocates and care professionals, the nature of our work is to encounter these healthcare system ants over and over again in both positive and negative ways. We must learn to collaborate with those ants, at their best and their worst, respecting their abilities whether we appreciate those abilities or not, because our clients do not deserve to become lunch.
What guru moments have improved your advocacy work? Care to share them below?
OK – so that’s not the same caterpillar I saw. When I went back with my camera to take a picture, those ants had polished him off and had moved on. I promise you, the scene was almost identical! But the photo above is © mehmetsinap / 123RF Stock Photo
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