When I think of a hospital, I think of cold air conditioning, beeping machines, food on a tray and a feeling of vulnerability. For me personally I do not have warm feelings about hospitals. Even when I have visited my husband in the hospital where he works, I feel nervous and shut down and tentatively walk through the wards.
When my husband comes home from work, I think of how he has been in that hospital all day. No warmth, so pushed for time there is no real opportunity to care for each patient, and the constant smell of hand sanitiser and bleach. Not a place I would choose to be. I cannot judge how he is when he gets home because this does not give him the chance to let go of the day and remember the warmth and care and his love for people, which is the reason he chose his role as a doctor.
I see how I can offer the opposite of a hospital. For doctors to bring a lightness, warmth and tender care to themselves and to their work, they need a different reflection to a hospital, otherwise they can forget. If they know no different, the coldness and functionality of a hospital can become their norm and in this they think their only way is to become hard in the way they work and matter of fact in the way they are with patients, as cold and functional as the hospital they work in.
It is not my role to save or rescue my husband from this but to remind him (as best I can) that there is another way and he can then bring that more loving caring way back to the hospital the next day. If doctors go to work each day in the same cold and functional feeling of a hospital from the day before, then patients too (especially people who are there for extended periods of time) forget life can be warm and caring and still. Imagine a doctor who comes to see you in hospital; he has eaten nutritious food, exercised in a way to support him at work, been in the company of people who care for him and feels loved. You would see and feel all this in one meeting with him, even for a moment.
The journey of my husband training in medicine and working as a junior doctor involved us living apart for years, financially dependent on one income, our relationship at times put to one side, to ‘get through’ what was required to complete this training. At many times it took its toll on us and our relationship and we often meet other doctors whose relationships were very strained or ended due to the stress of the training.
We (by no less than an absolute miracle, in the true sense) held on to our love for each other and thankfully came back to what our initial reason was to be together. We remember the innocence of why we loved each other and this needs to be held as sacred. If we make this everything, we can bring the fullness of who we are to ourselves, each other and to medicine. If we lose this or forget, we are not offering anything different to the world from the cold and functional motion of the hospital. We would be just completing our work without the flavour of us. A mere black and white version of us. No living colour.
I reflect upon all we have gone through in recent years and it reminds me to stay open to loving my husband in the same way I did when I first met him and felt the enormity of who we were and what we could do together.
When I look after myself at home and my husband returns from work, I am a lighthouse that does not have to try to do anything but is just shining no matter what. A reminder of what life is all about. If I can hold the light steady and consistent, he can see the way. If I jump into the world of the hospital, my light dims and he cannot see and I am lost at sea too.
No matter the busyness, the demand, the stress, we cannot lose ourselves otherwise, what are we offering others?