Last week was a challenge. I spent several days assisting a family member in the hospital. Not exactly fun, but I was glad to be able to help. I’m happy to say that I have very little experience with hospitals. So, it can be challenging to know what questions to ask, how to be a supportive advocate, and promote respect, healing, and dignity. As I look back and process the last week, I wonder what I can learn about myself having gone through the process of being the primary support for someone with (temporarily) diminished capacity.
When the situation was unfolding, I kept getting the symbol of a skunk. Often, I utilize decks such as Tarot or the Medicine Cards (by Jamie Sams and David Carson) for clarity, guidance, and focus. I did a spread, and the skunk card appeared. Not only that, but the same evening I thought I smelled a skunk outside, and there was a skunk in the movie that I was watching on TV. I may be slow, but eventually I connect the dots and give more attention to that which is calling out to me. In the Medicine Cards book, skunk represents “reputation.” The description includes: Skunk is teaching you that by walking your talk and by respecting yourself, you will create a position of strength and honored reputation. Project self-respect!
I wondered how self-respect would influence the process that I was going through at the hospital. First, I think that holding the energy of well-being, compassion, empathy, and respect encourage and support the same in the staff. Second, in order to show ourselves respect, we need to honor the authority we may need to bring to a situation. In other words, what do I need to do to take care of and respect my own needs in order to serve another? What boundaries are most beneficial, and how do I assert appropriate and respectful authority if needed?
This was new territory for me. I am not a control freak. In fact, I can easily go the opposite direction by allowing another to guide and dictate the direction I take. For a moment, I was faced with the possibility of a person that I was unwilling to deal with showing up at the hospital. My initial reaction was to tell myself that I would leave. But, as I thought about it later, I realized that leaving or even allowing the person into the room would have undermined my ability to remain an advocate. What I realized is that sometimes in order to serve another to the best of my ability, I may need to say no to something that the person I was supporting may have said yes to.
When responding to another’s crisis, I am extremely concerned with attempting to provide the most beneficial support for them. I realize that what I consider “supportive” is not the same for another. I set aside my own agenda and try to remain open, sensitive, and aware.
What I learned is that in spite of feeling uncomfortable with executing authority, genuine respect may require that I do so. Boundaries are crucial to our well-being. Understanding and accepting that walking my talk may require me to make choices that are unpleasant is the reality of self-respect.
The Medicine Cards book also says about skunk: Have enough self-esteem to recognize favorable characteristics within yourself. Walk tall and be proud of the accomplishments you have made. If I am to honestly evaluate the past week, I have to admit that I genuinely walked my talk. I was calm, allowed faith and trust to support me, and remained realistic. I embraced honest observation without glossing over or overdramatizing. I stood in acceptance and supported respect and healing to the best of my ability.
As I move on and the crisis fades, I allow myself to recognize that I am living how I want to by staying authentic in a challenging situation. I can create drama, or I can walk my talk by genuinely embodying faith, trust, and expanded awareness regardless of the unknown. I can embrace, and hopefully project, a reputation of self-respect. I can foster respect for all beings by showing myself the respect that I attempt to show others.