A few mornings ago (pre-caffeine) I was struggling to reassemble a travel coffee mug in the kitchen. Another person in the household provided me with rapid-fire instructions on how to do it, so rapid-fire my brain did not have time to even process the instructions, then took the mug and fixed it for me. I cannot even begin to describe the range of emotions or feelings I went through in that moment but I am going to try.
Grateful for the coffee mug being put back together. Frustration at the mug being taken from me. Excited for the coffee that would fill the mug (yay, caffeine at 6:30 am!). Anger that I did not get the chance to do it myself. Stubborn determination to NOT fix the other one and just leave it on the counter unassembled (you can put it together yourself thank you very much). And stubborn determination to put the damn thing back together, it’s just a coffee mug for goodness sakes. And then… a light bulb of realization hit me.
My stubborn determination to NOT reassemble the other mug is exactly what I see my 7 year old do when he does not get something right the first time. And then… I realized I probably contribute to that. I give him instructions but I do not always give him the time or space to process those instructions and figure out whatever he is trying to do. I know what he needs to do, so it seems very obvious to me, so why is it taking so long?? But this experience made me realize I need to slow down because it is not obvious to him, just like the mug was not obvious to me. I need to allow time and space for things to process and happen.
If I were my own best friend I would remind myself to give space and time along with instructions (for my 7 year old but also for anyone else). I would remind myself to count to 100 before jumping in (not 10). I would remind myself to look at the most frustrating moments as learning and growth opportunities. I would buy coffee mugs that stay in one piece all the time.
And in case anyone out there is curious, yes, I did put together the second mug. It took every bit of control I had to not walk away and behave like a, well, 7 year old, but I overcame and decided to try again (stubborn determination to conquer the mug won out). I successfully reassembled the mug and then successfully drank all the coffee that filled it throughout the day.
I work in healthcare. One of the aspects of my job is helping people manage a medication that requires frequent lab work and dose adjustments. Part of that management is advising people when or how soon to come back for a recheck and possible dose adjustment.
Some people come back whenever I ask them to come back. Some try to bargain. Some do not come back for as long as possible and require phone calls and letters to remind them to come into the clinic. One particular patient I work with may wait two weeks to two months later than recommended for office visits. When he does come in I always thank him for being there and we move forward with the visit. I have never scolded him or gotten angry with him for not coming into clinic as some of my colleagues do. He is an adult and it is his decision when to come in for a recheck – he can follow recommendations that are based on what I think would be safest for him or he can do what he chooses to do.
Why am I telling you about this? Well, because taking care of your car can be similar to managing a medication. My car requires oil changes and basic maintenance. The place where I get my oil changed always gives me a sticker with a recommendation for when to return for the next oil change based on time or number of miles. When I finally brought my car in for my most recent oil change I was about 5 months and 500 miles overdue.
Now why am I telling you about getting the oil changed in my car? How do these 2 things relate? Well, it is quite simple. As I pulled into the car care center the man who took my car and checked me in and noted that I was overdue but said “thank you for coming in today to get your car taken care of” was my patient. The same patient who is often overdue for visits with my clinic. The same patient I have never been cross with for being delayed coming back. And I felt the strangest sense of grace and irony.
So if I were my own best friend I would remind myself to practice grace throughout life when interacting with people. You never know what is going on in another person’s life – why they are late, why they are angry, why they are not at their best. And you never know when that same person may offer you grace in return.
About three weeks ago I was chopping potatoes. I stopped paying attention for a moment. I turned to answer a question but I kept chopping. Bye-bye left edge of left thumb. A trip to Urgent Care and a few sutures later I was all fixed up and back home. Lesson learned, pay attention when you are chopping potatoes. OK.
Yesterday I was chopping carrots (three weeks after the potatoes incident). And I stopped paying attention for a moment. And just like that, bye-bye middle-portion-and-right-edge of the same thumb. No trips to Urgent Care this time. I was too irritated and embarrassed with myself (ahh, ego). I cleaned it, taped the heck out of it, and sat down to reflect. What lesson did I miss the first time?
These are the possible lessons I have come up with so far:
- Pay attention when cutting vegetables to only the vegetables and only the knife and nothing else (Obvious, right?!? One would think I had learned that the first time.)
- Use duller knives (although some would disagree with this and say it would make it worse)
- Stop chopping vegetables – subsist on pre-cut bread and pre-cut cheese and fruit, like berries!
- Slow down. Stop multi-tasking. All. The. Time.
- Hire a cook (bwahahahaha. not in this lifetime)
- Keep a well-stocked first aid kit at home
- Buy pre-cut vegetables
- Show more appreciation for my non-dominant hand, especially that thumb (I had no idea how much I used that thumb until now)
So if I were my own best friend I would remind myself to look for the lessons life hands you. And if something happens a second time to really really look for the lesson that is hiding there because maybe I missed it the first time. For now though I will happily eat bread and cheese and berries and start interviewing for household help. Oh, and pay more attention. What, huh? Squirrel.