I've been thinking about healing a lot lately.
It's funny, but I've always thought physicians should be required to take acting lessons. It doesn't matter what kind of day I'm having. My patients need me to be fully present. To be their doctor. It doesn't matter that one of my staff is a no-show and I've got a sick and crashing patient at the hospital and my 15-year-old riled me up to the point of explosion that morning. I act my way through each day. I become what my patient needs. I channel my inner doctor.
This weekend, as you read in my previous blog post, I had a full weekend to myself, including an entire day to be completely alone without responsibility. What did I do with that day? I had all of these grand ideas of things I wanted to accomplish. I read somewhere that it's the days where you feel that you've had too many things to do and yet you've accomplished them all where you feel the most satisfied. I believe that. But it makes me feel guilty when I want, when I NEED to rest. When I want to do nothing.
Yesterday I did nothing but watch The Vampire Diaries. I watched all of seasons three and four. I accomplished nothing but watching that program and walking the dog.
This morning I woke up, dressed, and got ready to go to the hospital to round. I walked the dog and I went to work and discovered something important. The Vampire Diaries had healed me. I had needed healing and didn't know it. I needed a day to not feel guilty about doing Nothing at all--a day to rest-- to escape--to turn off my compassion and my empathy and my need to accomplish things and serve others.
I immersed myself in a fantasy.
When I rounded today at the hospital I found that I was a better doctor. I was able to draw upon a deep well of empathy that I hadn't been able to dip into easily because I'd been drained. I was able to help a woman who has no reason on this green earth to smile and laugh--to do just that.
It got me thinking about healing and how it's not just the purview of physicians and nurses and medical people. Artists heal people. Actors heal people. Authors heal people. They allow us to disappear into another world, a fantasy. I wonder if they ever think about that. I wonder if they know that they are healers.
Now you can laugh at me for enjoying the Vampire Diaries. It's a program filled with INCREDIBLY good looking actors (Ian Somerhalder-ooh la-la!), acting out the things that vampires and werewolves and witches and what-not would do if they existed. It's totally engrossing and the actors are all quite convincing. They are acting out things that I can't do anymore because I'm 51. I have done all that stuff already anyway. Well... I haven't bitten anybody in the neck and sucked their blood or healed anybody with vampire blood, or had sex with a werewolf, but I've lived my life and had a good time before settling down, before getting married and having children.
I wish that I could leave a body of work behind like a writer or an actor or a screenwriter or producer or musician. Something that people could draw on again and again--Something permanent and durable and healing.
I have a friend who's a singer and songwriter. He has a whole body of amazing music. He shares it with his friends and his family. He gives a little bit of himself to everyone he knows and loves. His music heals.
Actors and actresses, writers, and artists do the same thing. Some are lucky enough to be able to share their gifts with millions of people. They have no idea how their work is going to affect their audiences.
I wonder if they realize that they are healers.
I see people who come into the hospital and watch DVD's the entire time they're there, to maintain their sanity and block out reality. They disappear into paintings on the wall and make up fantasies about where the scenes are from. They read novels. They escape their pain.
I am also amazed by the actors and artists, musicians and writers who effect change in the world beyond the scope of their profession, develop a fan base and take on projects and causes. They activate entire social networks to make change in the world. They heal the world. They use their fame for good.
I heard one actor say that he was just the microphone amplifying the message of the cause he was promoting. Somebody called him humble because he wouldn't take credit, but he's right. And it's awesome that he can be the microphone. He has that base of people that are paying attention to him right now because he's a famous actor, not because he came up with the cause. He just amplified it using the power of his profession and loyalty of his fans.
My friends Sue and Leslie and Sally are amazing and incredible artists. I have high school acquaintances who are actors or musicians. I have met people along my life path who are writers or actors, or musicians.
They are all healers.
The Arts are critical for the health of our souls, minds, and bodies. Yet they're the first things cut from schools when the monies get short. Don't get me wrong. I think that attention to the STEM-Science Technology, Engineering and Math curriculum--is great, especially for girls, but it shouldn't be at the expense of the arts. We need to experience a full and balanced education. If you focus solely on science and lose the compassion, depth, empathy, and ethics found in studying the arts, we all lose.
The arts center us.
As I continue in my own little world, whirling around doing the things that I do, the shopping, the laundry, the house cleaning, and my life's work--being a physician and a parent-- I'm going to look for ways to change the world. I'm going to keep trying out new things. I'm going to keep taking risks. I'll keep acting my way through life, looking for ways to impact others. I am looking for different ways to effect healing and leave a lasting imprint. AND, I'm going to take time out to enjoy the arts. And to rest.
I want to thank the cast of The Vampire Diaries for a brief respite, battery recharge, and for healing me for a day, AND for showing me a different healing paradigm.
And Ian Somerhalder, Wow. Those EYES.
(Just because you're on a diet doesn't mean you can't look at the menu. Stop being all judge-y! Okay?!)
Michele Carlon MD, a.k.a. DoctorDiva