FMM 5 6 16 Cold Comfort Clichés

“Motivation will almost always beat mere talent.” ~Norman Ralph Augustine.

I learned more about muscle groups and their functions in the gym than I ever did in nursing school.  To be honest, forty years ago, my hospital based nursing school had a system designed for you to learn on the wards, caring for real live patients.  We had an assigned schedule, were counted as part of the staff fresh out of our first 6 weeks of classroom and lab.  We even got a pay check!  Every twelve weeks we got a break from our shifts (which included nights and weekends) to go back in the classroom for two weeks.  I was reminded of this the other day when I read that in England they still give student nurses a ‘bursary’ for their clinical experience, even though their education is now university based.  And the government is threatening to phase it out.

My monthly stipend always came as a pleasant surprise: they pay me for having so much fun?  It was enough to pay for my living expenses, and since I was very careful with my money (aka, mean!) I could save up enough to go home to Jamaica for my vacations.  It was during my time in England that my father had a heart attack.  At the time when I read the news (written by my mother on an airmail letter, not wishing to shock anyone with a phone call or telegram!) I was working on a female medical ward; some of the patients were recovering from heart attacks.  I read the letter on my lunch break, and although the ‘news’ was by now fairly old, I was quite perturbed and could not finish my shift.

That episode had a happy ending: my father learnt to say ‘no’ to some of the endless demands on his time.  He learned to be a little better about taking care of himself, and paying attention to his body.  He learned to allow others to do things for him.  There are times when life teaches us lessons that books can not.  In Jamaica they say ‘if you don’t hear, you will feel’.  But I still remember how I felt when I read that my father was mortal, that he could, like his father and brother before him, die before he turned 60.  The words of friends and family, those clichés designed to comfort, meant little to me.  Of course the fact that he lived to be 90 shows that I could have listened to the trite sayings, everything would be alright.

I found myself thinking about clichés recently, as I fretted about the current state of affairs in US politics.  How can we have arrived at a time when this man can be named nominee for president? (I find it hard to even write his name).  How can people be fooled and attracted by grandiose (and possibly delusional) statements?  How can people support a man who is so blatantly racist, misogynist, hypocritical and inconsistent?  And I found myself reaching for clichés.  It is always darkest before the dawn.  Every cloud has a silver lining.  There is a bright side to everything.

I can only hope that this man is the motivator, the thorn in the side that gets people involved and determined to do their civic duty.  I can only hope that he is the mild heart attack that reminds you not to take your body for granted.  I hope he acts like the shock of finding out your cholesterol is elevated, sending you to the gym.  We all need a reminder not to take things for granted, that we need to fight for the things we hold dear, like democracy and health.

And clichés after all, are no less true for being trite and overused.  If they were not true, they would not be repeated!  I have often written about therapeutic communication, how nurses are taught to avoid clichés when supporting people through difficult times.  Clichés sound empty, insincere, give false reassurance.  Instead, nurses should validate the feelings of the patient; recognize their fears, their doubts, their hopelessness, should let them feel what they are feeling.  That fear may be what motivates them to confront the danger, to do what is necessary to regain health.

So today I offer no clichés to the people of America.  Instead I acknowledge our fear, our dread of the possibility of what the future holds.  And I suggest that we use this fear to motivate each other to ensure that our worst fears do not materialize.  That we empower ourselves to take action, not to wallow in our fears but to get involved and make sure that the voices of hate and divisiveness do not win.

This Friday morning let us work to counter the hateful talk by reaching out to others, by ignoring those things which divide us.  Let us see the things we have in common and join forces to unite against negativity and destruction.  Either that, or Canada better be prepared to sink as we all flee north of the border!

Have a wonderful weekend Family!

One Love!

Namaste.

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