During the phase of parenting teens, I was introduced to one of my daughters’ favorite features in Us Weekly Magazine called Celebrities: Just Like Us. In this feature, photos of megastars were shown in everyday, human activities: shopping for groceries, playing fetch with the dog, wiping noses of small children. This was a healthy dose of reality for our celebrity-worshipping culture, where airbrushing has given most of us an unrealistic view of the bodies and lives of those in the media spotlight.
Once recent research study pointed out the time-honored reverence we have for the title, and in particular the clothing, of “doctor.” In this study, those who wore white doctor coats commanded significantly more attention and focus than those dressed in white painters garb. Anyone claiming the title of expert does not need to don a white coat, however. By writing this blog and hanging out my shingle as an expert on human behavior change, I may be subject to this pedestal-placing. One psychologist friend and I were talking about how we, as health professionals, may lose track of our impact on others. We’re here in our offices, doing what we do day after day, and forget how difficult it is for new clients to call, make that appointment, and present themselves, sharing their stories openly on our cushy couches. We are often surprised when a client quotes back to us, “you said X, and that really changed my life,” when we may either a) not remember that specific statement and/or b) wonder silently “is that really what I said?”
Which leads me to today’s story, with several goals. Partly to question: who says psychologists (or doctors) are anything special, to be raised up to the status of all-knowing guides? Partly to explain my sporadic blogging. And partly to demonstrate that which I’m always urging others to practice: self-compassion. Health professionals like me may look like we have it all together, when in truth, we (at least I) have terrible days–and even strings of days–just like everyone else. And pitiable, overreacting responses to life as well.
I awaken Monday morning, feeling good, enjoying my newly-remodeled, not-quite-moved-into bedroom. I love the deep green wall color, the smooth, glistening amber wood floors, the stark white crown molding. I take a meditative shower in my new glass-walled shower with the rainfall showerhead. All is well and I am cruising along, ahead of schedule. I release the three cats from their night time containment in the laundry room, and real life begins. There is cat pee all over the room. Some prolific peeing feline has overshot the monster cat box, spilling gallons onto, and beyond, the protective tray designed to prevent such problems. I slip in pee. I clean up, using several rags and lots of spray cleaner, while harnessing my flowing skirt, picked to impress today’s clients with my graceful sense of fashion. I wonder how good client noses are. I turn with a sigh, and another cat is behind me, straining to release drops of blood-tinged pee, due to her flaring interstitial cystitis (who knew a cat could even get such a thing?!) Uh, oh, better take her to the kindly vet on my way to work. I search the cluttered, post-remodeling project garage, then dash to the attic, in search of cat transport device. No cat carrier is to be found! I recall it was lent to kind neighbors, and perhaps not yet returned. Check my schedule, to alert first client that I will be late. Said client has new phone number, which of course I entered into my work computer but did not transfer to home records.
Regroup: will take cat on my lunch hour instead, dashing home to corral sick cat in a cloth grocery bag, her favorite mode of transport anyway. Now I’m covered with cat hair and urine. Hastily wipe my shoes on the grass as I dash to the car. Maybe I can still get to work before the client decides I’ve goofed on the schedule and departs. Traffic is snarled at malfunctioning red light at major intersection. I’ll use my secret, scenic neighborhood short cut. Feeling triumphant, I dash up the side street, round the bend, and am stopped by a construction flag man, guarding the white barriers ahead. I roll down the window, asking if I can get through. He responds in Spanish. My second language (a description that’s stretching it) is French. I consider move to Quebec. Or maybe some Caribbean island where French is spoken. I cut down an unknown side street, and find myself dumped back out into the same traffic mess. I exhale deeply and turn on the “Spa” channel on Sirius. Time to practice what I preach, or risk dissolving into sobbing mess.
Psychologists: they’re just like us!