For a significant part of my life (pretty much all the years between age 8 up through now) I have believed a huge lie about myself:
I have no value: I don't matter. In fact, I have negative value:Because I of this, I have believed I need to keep myself away from others, so they can't hurt me. But at HeartChange, God spoke to my heart and helped me see how lovable I am; how likeable I am. And He showed me in my heart that loving means allowing myself to be hurt by others; it is unavoidable. If I keep myself so isolated and alone that I avoid hurt, I also avoid all love that could come my way.
I'm a burden on people because I am defective/dirty.
OK -- so all of that took about 2 minutes for me to write, and 30 seconds for you to read. But it took 4 days for me to experience, and it has taken me over a year and a half of grappling and wrestling with it all to come to the place I am at today.
I am a Pummelo
I am the Tin Woodsman
I am tired of being both.
=-=-=-=-= I AM A PUMMELO =-=-=-=-=
I have come to learn how to show love and concern. I am an RN and patients and coworkers alike tell me I have a real knack for helping people feel cared for. But it comes with a price. I have become a pummelo.
The largest of all citrus fruits, the pummelo shares this characteristic with all the others: it comes in segments. One can neatly separate one segment from another.
In nursing school, I learned about a
Therapeutic Nurse-Client Relationship: Established and maintained by the nurse and the client as the foundation for providing nursing services that contribute to the client's health and well-being. The relationship is based on trust, respect, intimacy and the appropriate use of the nurse's inherent power.In other words, the patient should feel like I am the best friend and advocate s/he ever had, but I am not really their "friend". We don't hang out and have coffee. We don't date. It is a professional relationship. Clinical, yet personal. Intimate yet distanced.
I convey to the patient (by my demeanor, language, & actions) they are safe in my care. The patient is able to become completely open and vulnerable and trusting with me...but it is not a two-way street. I see the patient in all sorts of compromising situations, but they don't know the first thing about me except my name, I am an RN, and I am trustworthy.
So I learned to segment myself. I learned to dissociate myself. In this way, and only in this way, I could be a 32 year old man washing the body of a 35 year old woman and not become sexually aroused. In this way I could be a 32 year old man inserting a urinary catheter into the bladder of a 40 year old woman and convey to her she is safe in my care. I could be a 32 year old man who, over the course of a few days, brings care and comfort and even washes parts of another person's body and then even if that person begins to think our relationship is becoming personal, I could stay professional -- even to the point of having compassion on them and walking them through it all when they become embarrassed at their misplaced assumptions about our relationship.
A friend once had shoulder surgery and found he might end up on the unit where I worked. He said "Hey Keith! Maybe you can be my nurse!" and I said "Hey Bob! No way! You are my friend and I don't want to put in your catheter or empty your bed pan!" He got the picture and said "Oh. Yeah. No, I wouldn't want that either."
It is true: sometimes friends do help friends in very personal ways. I had the privilege of helping care for my father-in-law when he could no longer do for himself, and also for a good friend who was dying of cancer. But those are special circumstances, and they are still one-way. My routine day-to-day friendships? They don't involve nudity.
This clinical distancing which allowed me to appropriately care for my patients also allowed me to come home to my wife and not treat her like a patient. To this day, when my wife says "can you look at this mole on my arm" or something it is hard for me and I try and tell her I don't want to be her nurse, I want to be her husband. I have a really hard time being both on a day-in-day-out basis.
Above, I said "...I learned to dissociate..." but I think it came really naturally to me, from childhood. In believing the lie that I was a worthless burden and that being alone was the only safe place for me, I set myself up for dissociation.
And I've practiced it and am good at it. But my fortress has become my prison.
=-=-=-=-= I AM THE TIN WOODSMAN =-=-=-=
tin man: "lllll cnnnnnn"After wrestling through the last year and a half trying to walk out what it means to like myself and allow others in, I feel as if God is beginning to open my mouth to express what has been wrong with me for so long.
scarecrow: "did you say something?"
dorothy: "no, did you say something?"
tin man: "lllll cnnnnnn"
dorothy: "it was the tin man! but what did he say?"
tin man: "lllll cnnnnnn"
scarecrow: "i think he said 'oil can'"
dorothy: (holding oil can) "did you say 'oil can'?"
tin man: "lllll mmnnnnn mmnnnnnnth"
scarecrow: "i think he said 'oil my mouth'
I have become so good at being a pummelo I have become the Tin Woodsman. Standing outside in the rain, covered with leaves. Ineffectual.
Over time I have become so good at dissociating and keeping others out I don't even know what my heart feels like anymore. To paraphrase Forest Gump:
"I'm a smart man, but I don't know what love is.My childhood tears rusted shut my mouth, and now my chest feels empty.
I watch a soap commercial and feel my eyes tear up. But I talk to a patient about their pain, and get distracted by eMail. I read a touching story and bawl, but a good friend and Small Group member is dying of cancer and my heart feels like Scrooge or the Grinch: uncaring, unfeeling, 3 sizes too small. But God has shown me that even if I don't feel His love flowing through me, others do. So if they feel it, it is still real. I take comfort in that. I am not Scrooge. I am not the Grinch.
But I am all confused about how to really really love someone. I'm all confused about what it means for people to love me, and how to experience that oil-can love. But I have hope.
My jaw is finally starting to loosen up and, as the story goes, my elbows and knees are next. I have a few close, dear, wonderful companions to walk with me, & keep me oiled. There's a big bright yellow road ahead of us. There may be perils along the way, but there will also be more companions to meet.
And rumour has it, at the end of the road, there's an Emerald City. And a wonderful, kind wizard who can give me back my heart.