Our Sage Sister group of four feisty women frequently bemoans the changes we experience in the healthcare system. At our ages, we are more frequent consumers. We bristle at the repetitive answering machine messages we are forced to endure when we prefer soothing human voices, time limits placed on our appointments, less personal contact as medical records are updated into computers during appointments, little time to listen and understand our life circumstances much less offer compassion, more cookie-cutter solutions.
All of this only adds to the toll the pandemic has taken on us. From blood pressure and stomach acid rising to spewing toxic energy.
We don’t like it. We try to adjust. Sometimes it’s easier than others.
I asked to begin our Sage Sister check-in.
I had gone to a very dark place following my third face-to-face with my new (as of April 2020) primary care provider (PCP) the day before. With the toxic energy I exuded, she couldn’t help but notice my discontent with her. She suggested we might not be a good match and I might want to consider finding another provider. She is the second PCP I have tried in the past 3-4 years.
It was tempting
- to place the blame on her and the system
- to the extreme stress of dealing with my daughter’s breast cancer diagnosis,
- in addition to scheduling COVID vaccinations for both of us,
- eye appointments for Nicole,
- hand therapy appointments for me,
- rescheduling tax preparation appointments three times
- to point to the numerous positive encounters with medical professionals I’ve experienced in recent weeks … in other words, “It’s not me who is the problem!”
But that is not who I am and does not excuse the toxic energy that directed my behavior … that is not what the spiritual path I follow teaches. I spent the morning before our Sage Sister meeting
- examining my part in this contentious relationship
- revisiting words of wisdom from my teacher, Cynthia Bourgeault, and
- centering myself with recommended prayer practices.
Twice during my reflections, tears welled up.
- I realized I am still grieving the loss of the integrative medicine doctor I saw before he retired some 4 or so years ago. It wasn’t that he was warm and fuzzy and spent lots of time with me, but there was a softness about him. And I appreciated his alternative approach to my issues … he was definitely not a cookie-cutter type of doctor. I felt like a human being, not a number. I have an health concern now that I would love to consult with him about.
- Fourteen years after retiring, I still carry sadness and hurt at the way my ministry as a family therapist for those caught in the pain of addiction was decimated when healthcare transitioned from patient-centered care to profit-centered so-called care.
My Process in Action
In early September 2020, three local spiritual seekers and I began taking Wisdom School courses from Cynthia Bourgeault. In late September, Terry Patton interviewed Cynthia on his podcast, titling their conversation, “Spiritual Mettle and the Good Company of the Holy.” The quote below from their conversation spoke powerfully to me.
The beautiful challenge of being a human being is to take spiritual energy, which is subtle and more powerful than physical energy, and distribute it in difficult situations as love, blessing, peace, and guidance in order to stabilize the whole. ~Cynthia Bourgeault
Already aware that serenity and equanimity are growth challenges for me, I resolved to strengthen my practice maintaining these qualities in life’s difficult situations. I felt good about the progress I was making.
Without being fully aware, however, I carried unresolved grief, hurt, and anger toward the healthcare system and it was affecting my attitude and behavior.
We know very directly that when we operate out of what you might call ‘hell realms’ … when we flail that around the planet, we hurt … we take stupid actions that hurt other human beings, other sentient beings, the biosphere … we hurt because the energy emerging out of us from that engagement in the inner (hell) realms is toxic to the planet, like pouring carbolic acid on it directly. …virtually all the spiritual traditions urge us to stay as clear, light, unattached inside as possible … to not let ourselves be taken by cravings, anger, revenge … not to repress them so you don’t even know you have them … just don’t follow where they are pulling you. ~Cynthia Bourgeault
I shared my process of discovery with my Sage Sisters and confessed to my attitudes and behavior uncovered during my morning quiet time of spiritual reflection. I admitted that I now see that I entered the relationship with my new PCP with my defenses up … my toxic energy only increasing … until this appointment when I “poured carbolic acid on it directly” through a snarky MyChart message. Ouch.
Where Do I Go From Here?
I will eventually apologize to my PCP and own my part in the debacle. And as I stepped back and looked at my experience minus all the emotion and toxic energy, I realized she is right … we are not a good fit for each other. From experience, I’ve learned that following paths that are not a good fit for me don’t lead to “distributing spiritual energy in difficult situations as love, blessing, peace, and guidance.” It doesn’t lead to “stabilizing the whole.”
I admit to being a bit of a misfit. In this instance, I prefer integrative to straight Western medicine. And so this outcome is not surprising.
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you … Jeremiah 1:5a
Being faithful to my “formation” … my natural proclivities is not always easy, especially when they don’t fit the norm.
My Sage Sisters had several good suggestions for avenues to explore. Other friends added helpful input. I find it always helps to listen to more voices than mine alone … especially when I’m caught in unresolved feelings.
And thus, I continue my process of accepting my humanness in all its iterations and my process of accepting life on life’s terms … especially when I find those terms repugnant!
I’m grateful for merciful friends and for the merciful still small voice of wisdom within that continues to guide me, even when I unconsciously diverge from the path.