Our household was a little chaotic this morning; window cleaner (the dog wants to eat him!), prepping for an early work call, trying to tread lightly around the house (Sleeping Beauty Teenager) and Timmy the Door Trimmer (the dog wants to eat him too!). Timmy is a real person (although I have changed his name for the purpose of this blog) and he trims doors. Having had new carpets, our doors had a little bit of difficulty opening and closing so, enter stage left, Timmy and his trimming machine.
Why the hell am I telling you about Timmy?! Well, as he was about to leave, we had one of those hallway conversations that was short and deeply moving. It was like Front Door Therapy – for both of us. Timmy was telling me how busy he was. A nice problem to have, right? He went on to express how his busyness was a result of cutting his working week in half to support his wife who works on the NHS frontline; saving lives and playing a major role in keeping the health of our country, propped up. She studied for 3 years at University to become a theatre nurse. She had a job at a private hospital but, because there was no surgery taking place due to C-19, they sat around drinking tea and eating cake. She resisted this and instead, wanted to go and support her NHS colleagues. She wasn’t allowed, so she packed in her private hospital role. Taking a significant pay cut, she grabbed herself an NHS job. Her weeks average around 60 hours – often more. 12 hour shifts. She probably takes home a similar wage to that which she could earn in Sainsbury’s.
…then, the penny dropped. Whilst we have given high fives and lots of love to NHS workers throughout the pandemic, clapped for carers on a Thursday and discovered a new found respect for the almost impossible job they have – and, might I add, all rightly so – we have missed what is fundamental to them being able to do their jobs. “My wife knows that she can just focus on doing her work; I make sure the kids are ok, get their school work done, do the shopping, the washing, the cooking and squeeze in some work when she has the odd day off here and there. Whilst it will cripple us financially, she has to do this. It’s what she trained to do.”
Let’s be clear, if this was Tammy the Door Trimmer and she was telling me about her husband, the front line NHS doctor, I would feel exactly the same. This has nothing to do with gender or roles. Those of you who know me will understand that I don’t play that game. Those who don’t know me, well, you can only take my word for it. No, this is to do with what many of us have been missing. Failing to see. Not attending to because we were busy looking at what was staring us in the face and not what was hiding behind it.
For every front line worker (nurse, doctor, firefighter, police officer, teacher….it’s a long list), there is a family, a support network, a best friend, a cat, a neighbour…..there is someone who, behind the scenes, makes their work possible. NHS, frontline workers are staring down the barrel of a shotgun with the impact of trauma, stress and burnout. The bullet is hurtling towards them. We can deny it and attempt to soften the blow, but every bit of recent research confirms the same thing – the healthcare system is riddled with trauma, waiting to burst.
So, it seems that the angels are not just the ones in a nurses outfit, they are also the ones who are ensuring that their lives can function. I was deeply moved by Timmy and his story. There must be thousands of Timmy’s and Tammy’s who are in the same place. And until today, I hadn’t paid them much attention. I thanked him, genuinely thanked him for what he, his wife and their kids are doing for all of us. I wanted to reassure him that, in time, they would find their balance again. With a tonne of Karma in the bank, it will reset itself. I genuinely believe that, I just don’t know how long it will take…
If you live on autopilot, it’s incredibly easy to see only what is directly in front of you. Autopilot means that you stop peering behind, underneath and around corners. You cease all curiosity. You make no time for wonder and reflection. You stop asking hmmm, what else? Leaning towards can be time consuming, so you just lean away, assuming that you know enough and have seen enough. Roberto Assagioli, the founder of Psychosynthesis, talks of Bifocal vision – an invitation for the therapist to see the client through the lens of their presenting issues and, at the same time, to see beyond, into the distance, at what is wanting to emerge from them. What if we all peered through a bifocal lens?? What else might we see?
I don’t know what Covid has taught you. I don’t know what you feel is the message that the planet is desperate for us to hear. For me, there are a few. And top of my list is the anguish of the universe for us all to Wake. Up! This means that we all start to wonder more. To find curiosity and to lean in. To care so deeply that we attend to others with compassion. To show empathy and understanding. And in doing all of this, we might just start to notice what is hiding and out of sight, but oh, so important.
Check yourself. Look at your work interactions. Look over the fence at your neighbours. Look at your partner and your family. Heck, look at yourself. Now, what are you seeing and what are you not seeing?!