Thursday, May 31, 2012

Daily 5 - Year 3, Day 283

Today's Daily 5:

  1. a plant that has stayed alive in my dim basement
  2. a downtown park
  3. a funny memoir written by a midwife
  4. late night quiet
  5. an awesome first shift at work
  6. a borrowed car
  7. the smell of lilacs
  8. a really helpful coffee date with my friend K
  9. an encouraging appointment with my therapist
  10. laughing with friends at house church


The last few weeks in school as we've focused on family centered nursing, we've spent hours upon hours talking about interviewing, about asking questions, and about offering commendations.  (So many hours, in fact, that a little inside joke about beating a dead horse sprang up in conversation with my best friend and the poor horse became the subject of a goofy ongoing facebook wall conversation.)  We've talked about relationships, and building rapport.  And we've stressed over and over and over again that the relationship, the question, or the commendation in many cases IS the intervention.

It's not a particularly revolutionary concept for someone with a background in mental health, or for anyone who has spent any time at all sitting across from a therapist, but bits and pieces of it, particularly the commendation part, have stood out to me and left me feeling my way around inside myself, asking if these things that seem new are truths here to stay, or visiting stories of the sort that taste wonderful upon arrival but leave very little if any lasting impression.

A commendation, it was stressed, is NOT a compliment.  A commendation draws on history, experience, and builds up a person's strengths.  It notices the deeper things.

Did I mention that we spent hours upon hours talking about this? Or the part where, in a room with people we may have only known for a few weeks, we practiced?  We sat in a circle and asked carefully formed questions about each other's lives.  And then, a week later, we sat in that circle again and we gave each other commendations (and stars, because well, the stars were a fun way to keep track of how many we'd given and received.)

Two commendations have been floating around in my thoughts for the last week or so - one from that time in a circle, and the other given somewhat inadvertently by a good friend as we chatted before a lecture began.

The first was a comment from a classmate, one who I don't know well, yet, a new groupmate.  She commented that she appreciated that I was very open about my life experiences, including the harder bits, and that I was willing to let those experiences be points of learning for the others in my group.

Those words hit home in a way I didn't expect.  For a long time I've had a commitment to live honestly and openly.  To speak truth wherever possible.  In the last year, especially, as I've found healing, I find myself more open than ever.  It seems crazy to me at times (I have a lot of internal conversations where even as I speak of a part of my past, my inner voice is screaming "What the heck are you saying? Are you aware of the potential negative consequences of sharing that?")  I've spoken openly about some of my history with mental health, about my faith, and even about some of the challenges that come with family and my current living situation.  I've done it even when I'm aware of the mental image of me that it could allow others to create.  And mostly I don't regret it, but I do wonder at times what others think of  me.  Because of that it was gratifying that this new classmate recognized and thanked me for this.  That this part of me that I do almost unconsciously now was noticed.

The second commendation made me laugh when it sprouted, unrehearsed from the lips of a good friend as we sat and chatted before class.  The two of us bonded last semester over horrendous group work, and the challenges of adapting to the craziness of nursing school, and we've become close, sharing far more than just venting sessions about homework and moving to the ins and outs of our lives.  I was telling her that I'd booked tickets to fly to Florida in August, to meet four other women who I know only from our online conversations.  Four women that I've never met in person.  Without thinking, my friend spouted, "You're ballsy!"

I burst out laughing, and we moved on with our conversation, but her words have stayed with me.  I've never thought of myself as a person of courage.  Never thought of myself as adventurous, or a risk taker.  I'm attached to my comfort zone, generally opposed to change on principle, introverted, and prefer schedules to spontaneity the vast majority of the time.  And yet, "You're ballsy!" echoes around my insides, seeing if it can make itself at home.  It acts as a mirror, reminding me of who I am becoming - that the courageous heroine I've appreciated in books since childhood might in fact just be a part of my true self.  This isn't even the first time I've gotten on an airplane to meet friends made via internet connections, it reminds me.  It bounces around some more and I remember that I love the controlled risk of riding a good roller coaster.  Another bounce and I am reminded of the work I have poured into facing the hardest bits of my life and finding healing.  A final bounce and we're back at the commendation from my newer classmate, the reminder that in a world that values privacy and hides brokenness at all costs, I've chosen to let the frayed bits of me show, and that sometimes those frayed bits help others to learn and heal.

Nothing could have convinced me that a commendation IS an intervention in the life of a client until I sat with these words spoken by friends this last week.  Until I saw the way that words of commendation spoken to me at just the right moment built on truths and desires that had been growing within me already.  Until I saw the way that those words gave me strength to keep going. Until I saw the way those words made me stronger.  It's a unique way to learn a lesson, an unexpected thing to experience in such a personal way a skill we're taught to use on others, but I'm oh so thankful for it this week.