Thursday, 11 September 2014

A house of cards

It's not unusual to hear people say about themselves 'I'm useless' or about others, 'You're useless.' I guess the thought that we are pretty useless at times haunts many of us. The problems with these thoughts and statements is that they are not usually true and if believed build mental prisons. In this post I will try to explore what I see the real truth about us really is. 

Recently I was at a half day conference in Manchester and met up with my friend, Laura Neilson afterwards. Laura expresses what is best in the medical profession - the care, compassion, kindness and sense of peace that a good medic brings to a sick person. We met through work on health inclusion led by Professor Aidan Halligan. Aidan is developing some amazing and innovative ideas at the moment. Over coffee, Laura and I talked about a number of things. She mentioned how a friend of hers says that we all are like a pack of cards and we all have a few cards missing. None of us has the full deck - the full 52. I found this an intriguing thought and hence this blog. This first thought led to more reflection.

The first thought was that we all have nearly all the cards. If we have 46, 48 or 50 of them that's not bad. If we can focus on them we are focusing on our strengths and what we can contribute. Focusing on the cards we have gives us a good base to move and live from. It also allows the possibility of other cards to possibly appear. Not looking at the cards we have and looking for the cards we haven't is often a disaster. Some of us have sat with people who couldn't see all the good they had - they couldn't see the wood for the trees. All they could see was the negative issue in their lives. I remember a friend going through painful relationship issues. Working on the hospital wards always brought him around. Seeing the suffering of others shifted his mental picture to what he had and could offer. We shouldn't allow the two or three cards we don't have to cancel out the other 50.

The second thought was the two or four cards we don't have may not matter so we don't need to worry too much about them. If they do matter, we have two roads that open up before us. The first is to find them. This is a path of learning, growth and development. The other road is to accept that we don't have them and won't get them. The lesson here can be deep one. It teaches us that we are not the chain but just a link. We are confronted by our lack. We see the need for others to enrich and complete us. We need their gifts and responses to be and do what have to. We are also taught to be humble. We have to admit and accept our limitation and lack. There are Kings and Queens in a deck of cards - there shouldn't be any in the National Health Service. We are as the word in the name says part of a service. We are here to serve and support each other and help each other grow. It's not always easy to say 'I can't do this' or 'I need someone to help me with this.' I sat today with a good colleague and talked exactly about this. Actually it isn't weakness to say this but strength and wisdom. The real weakness is not to be able to say this and confess our need.

So we are a House of Cards. Not in the usual sense of the term - some unstable arrangement that can topple so easily. We have cards made of the best and brightest human gifts. Cards that reflect and shimmer with potential. Cards that echo greatness and possibility. Life and work can be tough at times. We can't always change that. We can avoid making things worse. We can also recognise more and more our gifts and become more resilient and focused. Tough times can knock us off focus. Like all powerful emotions and experiences tough times can distort reality. We really need the cards we have and to play them wisely and kindly. When we think of it those 50 cards to play with - all those Aces, Kings, Jacks and Queens  - we may see new ideas and vistas.  

John Walsh, York Street Health Practice.

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