By Mick Krasner, M.D.
From Waiting to Go On by David Whyte It must be we are waiting for the perfect moment. It must be under the struggle we want to go on. It must be, deep down, we are creatures getting ready for when we are needed. It must be that waiting for the listening ear of the appreciative word, for the right woman or the right man or the right moment just to ourselves. we are getting ready just to be ready and nothing else. Like this moment just before the guests arrive working alone in the kitchen sensing a deep down symmetry in every blessed thing. The way that everything unbeknownst to us is preparing to meet us too. Just on the other side of the door someone is about to knock and our life is just about to change. and finally after all these years rehearsing, behind the curtain, we might just be ready to go on. - From River Flow 2007, and Printed with Permission from Many Rivers Press, Langley, WA
Our training for a career in medicine feels, at times, like this- just waiting to go on. It is lengthy, tedious, physically, emotionally, and cognitively demanding, and we often ask ourselves questions about our readiness and our competencies, while along the way doubting our places of belonging in this profession. Rehearsing for this work is one thing but stepping onto that stage is another entirely. It raises notions of impersonation, how to embody a mind and body that seems other than ourselves, or a distant memory of what we once were. And then there are the ongoing dynamics of striving for perfection, mastering the knowledge base, muscle memory, cognitive flexibility and emotional strength to face into the unknowns of human illnesses, showing up all at once as expert, partner and student in the healing equation.
This period of seclusion, isolation, and separation during the pandemic and the fears and anxieties that have arisen as a result highlight the lived experience that we are always stepping out of seclusion as we are at the same time always moving back into it. We collectively forced ourselves to hunker down in our homes, to physically socially distance, while at the same time, through the necessities of our instincts for well-being moved into a different kind of engagement with others and within ourselves. And now in some places, in particular the United States, we begin to move cautiously and joyously out of the physical seclusion and simultaneously back into the gifts, however clear or opaque they have been experienced, that the disruption of the pandemic has provided us, whether they be a clearer sense of the importance of connection, reflection and silence in our lives, or the uncomfortable realization of what it is to be, at some level, utterly and entirely alone.
And for those of us who are experiencing this right now, how odd it is to even consider not donning a mask or to be standing in a crowd closer that six feet apart, or even for hazarding a hug. Yet, we want to go on. We want to step out. We need to connect and touch and hug. Our very lives depend on it. The lives of others- those whom we love and those whom we know and the countless beings whom we do not know, all of us, all beings, depend on it.
Were it not for natural events beyond our control, in this case the pandemic in a global sense, but in a more local and personal way, an ill patient, a family member in need, a meal to be cooked, a face to wash and body to bathe and dress- were it not for these necessities, we may simply be waiting, waiting, waiting for that perfect moment. These are always waiting on the other side of our waiting to go on, and not concerned with our need for the moment to be perfect, always on the other side of the exam room door, always on the other side of the bed we sleep in, always on the other side of the conversation on the telephone or on Zoom, and always on the other side of the mirror.
It has been stated that the universe breathlessly waits for each of us to take our place. The perfect moment is already here. It is in the ever unfolding, relentless, at times merciless and at other times merciful, never permanent, never perfect, and never personal now. And now is all we have. Let us endeavor to live our lives in constant and dedicated preparation for that which we call now, moving into and out of the experience of seclusion, with gratitude, joy, lovingkindness, equanimity and compassion.