The first official day of my break (Monday was post-call so doesn’t count) was preceded by a restless and stressful sleep. I fell asleep dwelling on the topic of Monday night’s blog post about K’s upcoming birthday. I dreamed about sending a simple email to say Happy Birthday, and from there I envisioned a multitude of different outcomes. It seemed as thought I woke up between each dreamed outcome and felt anxious or stressed and as soon as I fell back asleep, I would move onto another outcome. These outcomes ranged from nothing; I would send it and I would never hear back, to worse than now; she would remind me that she doesn’t want me in her life, to promising; it would open up a means of communication, to finally me not sending anything and feeling bad about myself for not doing it.
I vowed to run at least 7 Km today, and despite my stressful sleep, I forced myself to run. When, half-way through my run, Netflix decided to go out of service, I switched to YouTube and started watching some TED talks and interviews by Brené Brown. As I listed to those talks, I heard the words she emphasizes so strongly in her work: Courage, Compassion, Authenticity, Wholeheartedness, Connectivity. I heard her reminder that vulnerability and shame are on completely opposite sides of the spectrum, and that it is only through Courage to be Vulnerable that we can really live an Authentic and Wholehearted life.
When I stepped off the treadmill, I began thinking about how the dreams from my restless sleep were affected by the struggle between vulnerability and shame. If I reach out, regardless of the outcome, I am allowing myself to be vulnerable: I am afraid of more rejection, more hurt, more feelings of unworthiness, and of seeming pathetic or desperate. However, by not doing the thing I am impulsed and inclined to do (because it’s important to me to recognize her birthday), I am letting shame and fear do exactly what it likes to do: destroy authenticity, wholeheartedness, and connectivity.
I thought back to the conversation with my old high school counsellor in which she reminded me of the person I have always been. I care about people in a way that many others don’t. I make solid and meaningful relationships and value them with an intensity that isn’t always seen. That is who I am. Living in that way is my authenticity.
I reflected on a visit with my patient who gave me a gift the other day. After opening it and reading her card, I went back to tell her how much I appreciated her kind words. In response she said, “I don’t know what it is about you, but from the very beginning I felt connected to you and I believed that you really cared about me and how I was doing.” I thanked her for that comment and told her how I’ve been trying hard to show empathy and compassion to my patients. She said, “it really shows. But you should be careful because you could really get hurt.”
Yes. Hurt. I have already been hurt.
But, the difference my connectivity made in this patient’s hospital stay, maybe in her whole recovery, and perhaps beyond that, I dare to say it is worth the risk of being hurt. Wholeheartedness, when done right, is a beautiful thing.
Courage has two definitions in the dictionary:
~ The ability to do something that frightens one, and
~ Strength in the face of pain or grief.
Brené Brown brings attention to the origin of the word courage, which comes from the Latin word for Heart (Cor). Courage denotes something from the heart, from the deepest seat of our feelings. To have courage, then, is standing up to fear, and pain, and grief, to express that which is most valuable in our heart.
If I am going to be authentic, I need to be myself and do what is meaningful to me.
If I am going to be courageous, I can’t let fear and shame bury my authenticity.
If I am going to live with my whole heart, I need go beyond my hurt and ego, and show that I forgive and I still care.
I did more than run 7Km on the treadmill today; I was also reminded that vulnerability is hard, scary, risky, and uncertain, but it is authentic and it has to capacity to make something beautiful.
Daring Greatly means I should do what I know to be right in my heart, regardless of what might happen. And so, I will send that ten word email; because regardless of whether the outcome is good, bad, or nothing, at least I did what I know is right in my heart.