Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Gift of Being Seen ...

Hi everyone! My apologies for an unannounced absence over the past few weeks.

As a few of you may know, I have a chronic pain condition from a birth injury, one that has been relatively stable for many years. This fall, however, one of my pain prevention medications was discontinued because it was implicated in signs of early glaucoma. Tapering off that medication has caused significant pain for a couple of months. After seeing a new-to-me neurologist at Queen's University, though, I now have several replacement options to try and expect to be comfortable again in the New Year.

The experience of meeting this new neurologist was helpful, hopeful, and reassuring. What made it so?  First, that he took the time to hear my story and carefully question any areas where I was unclear. Second, that his questions encompassed all three aspects of chronic pain - the physical, the emotional and the traumatic. Third, that his physical exam was thorough enough to pinpoint protective compensations of gait and posture that now complicate the treatment picture. And finally, that he lives with a similar condition, himself, and believes a solution is available. (His credibility went up 10 points when I heard that!)

Why am I telling you all this? Simply because in this physician, I found a helping professional who was neither burnt out nor compassion fatigued - one who retained the capacity to SEE his patients as individuals and as partners in healing. This being seen allowed me to relax into the helping relationship and to move toward the relief of my pain.

The gift of being seen is a powerful one. From our earliest days, the gaze of infant and mother establishes a secure emotional base of human attachment. The watchful eyes of parents, families and teachers keep us safe and empower our growth through childhood, teenage years and early adulthood. The recognition of being seen in a positive light builds our self confidence and self esteem. Being seen allows each of us to continue the journey toward being the whole person we were meant to be.

In Africa, there is a Zulu greeting that goes like this:

I see you.

If you want to let someone know that you recognize them, that you have taken the time to notice them, that you honour how unique they are in all the world, that their presence is a cause for celebration, this is what you say.

I see you.

In this season of additional busyness, hurry and, in some cases, grief, Jan Richardson, one of my favourite writers-of-blessings asks:

How is your seeing? Who might need you to say, I see you? Where might you offer this gift of recognition, this blessing that will free someone to speak the word that only they can speak?

Why not take a moment to consider who might need to be seen in your life this holiday season? Then, whether at work or at home, intentionally offer them the gift of your presence, recognition and esteem.

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