“This is Our Finest Hour?” “I Have a Dream?” No, nothing like that. This is a speech of 2 words I heard the other day.I was in a hospital getting a chest x-ray, a ... for surgery on my broken
“This is Our Finest Hour?” “I Have a Dream?” No, nothing like that. This is a speech of 2 words I heard the other day.
I was in a hospital getting a chest x-ray, a prerequisite for surgery on my broken ankle. It’s been two weeks since it happened, two weeks full of pain, change, and coping. I’ve described how it happened, learned how to get around the house on crutches, visited doctors and labs, waited on x-rays, and asked neighbors to get the mail and groceries.
I’ve also been put through the pre-op battery of tests – blood tests, EKGs, chest x-rays, and discussions with my doctor, who felt the best approach was surgery.
In my EQ Alive! program, which trains and certifies EQ coaches, I’ve participated in the weekly EQ Check In along with the students. We tell each other how we feel physically, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. We begin each teleclass that way, and listen closely to the answers. EQ competencies include emotional expression, and also Integrated Self, being in touch with all aspects of yourself. Most of all it means not engaging in the meaningless, “How are you?” “Fine.”
In a shutdown and coping mode, I thought I was being realistic about how I was feeling. I said I was in pain. I said I was physically slow and the painkillers had dulled me mentally, and that spiritually things were the same as ever. What more was there to say? I never gave it a thought.
So there I was in the hospital. I’d been sent to the wrong place and walked about ½ a mile on the crutches to find that out. I was accepted, however, thanks to the work of a nurse named Lupe with very high EQ who just pushed the order on through. And then, mercifully finally in a wheelchair, I’d been wheeled to the x-ray waiting area and left in the hall.
As I sat there, a woman on a stretcher was wheeled up. I could tell she was sick. Her hair hadn’t been washed in a while and she had a nose tube for oxygen, and a tube in her arm. Her color didn’t look good and she barely moved. She reminded me of my dad the last time I saw him in the hospital. She was accompanied by two women. The first one went over to sign papers, and the other one walked off down the hall.
A technologist walked out toward the woman on the stretcher when I heard the speech that touched me so. I think she thought he was coming to take her into the x-ray room.
“I’m afraid!” she cried out.
“God love her,” I thought. “So am I!”
I tried to get out of my chair and go to her, but the technologist beat me to her. Speaking to her in her native tongue, Spanish, he rushed to her side, took her hand and started soothing her. “Abuelita,” he called her, “little grandmother,” a term of endearment. A nurse brought out a screen to give her privacy and she quieted.
She quieted and I thought: Why is it so hard to get to “I’m afraid”?
Of course I’d been afraid the whole time, from the moment I heard the bones turn in my ankle. I started repeating, “Please don’t let it be broken, please don’t let it be broken.” There was no way to tell, and I was left with pain and fear.
Was it broken? Is this because my bones are getting old and this is just the beginning? Will this mean arthritis pain for the rest of my life? Will the insurance cover it? What on earth is my deductible? How can I ever manage this at home alone? Will it need surgery? General anesthesia? Will I survive it? Will they have to rebreak it like one neighbor says, and put in 6 screws like the other one says? What will happen?
I shut all these things down and used words like “tired” and “in pain,” but at the core, yes, I was afraid. Fear of the unknown, and fear of being helpless and dependent.
I was also afraid of the fantasized reactions of others, having come from a family of shame and blame. I think nothing will ever “happen” to me that I won’t feel like I caused it and was a ‘bad girl’ because of that. Words from an overwhelmed, shame-and-blame mother who saw everything as simply more work for her. Whatever caused the ankle to break, I should’ve known better, I shouldn’t have done it, I shouldn’t have been there, and I should never have let it happen – as if I were omniscient and omnipotent. That means all-knowing and in control of everything in the world. It was family that taught intellectual words, not feelings. Old childhood fears. In line with, “Whatever it is you fear has already happened.”
And at that particular moment in the hospital corridor, well you never know what will turn up on any chest x-ray, no matter why it’s required. Nor had the results of the EKG come in yet. What if I went in with a broken ankle and came out with a bypass? Or worse yet, out the back door on a stretcher. It’s been known to happen.
As J. Powell says in “Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am?” emotions are not moral (good or bad). Feeling frustrated, or being annoyed, or experiencing fears and anger do not make one a good or bad person [a weak or strong person.] But this is theory. In our day-to-day lives most of us blame ourselves for our feelings.” And if we judge them to be “bad,” or unacceptable to us in some way, we bury them.
So there I sat in my wheelchair, silent and alone. And there was Abuelita, expressing her fear and getting comforted. It’s an old lesson: People care. If we say we’re afraid we can be comforted. If we don’t, we can’t.
All studies show that people do best who have a strong social support network, and if you don’t say WHO you are and HOW you are, you aren’t getting the connection that sustains you. You remain alone in the presence of others, which is the loneliest you’ll ever be.
And let me close with the words of the technologist who finally did my x-ray. Dianna was her name. She read the name of my company, Emotionally Intelligent Solutions, on the chart. “What’s that,” she said, “Is that like I’m to the point where I can’t stand any of my co-workers any more and I think they’re dumb and ignorant and feel like I’m about to explode,”
Yes, EQ is about that, too!
The woman works two 16-hour days, physical and demanding (how on earth do you do that?) and has three children at home. I gave her my card. I hope she’ll call me. It may not be her co-workers that are the problem.
And that’s the power of Emotional Intelligence. If you are the problem, you are also the solution, and Emotional Intelligence is the bridge between the two.