Sometimes I feel like I’m part of someone else’s play. Just dropped in. I don’t know my lines, I don’t know the other characters. I think I’m in a drama, yet it feels like a farce. The stage is ever changing. Have you seen those round, rotating stages where the props keep changing? I think I’m playing myself, but I’m not quite sure. On top of it, I feel like crap, I’m exhausted, I’m cranky. I exit, stage right, left, whichever. What just happened? What do I do now? Oh yes, time to live life again.
When I worked at Boston Children’s Hospital, I took a class from the Big Apple Circus clowns. These are people who go from room to room visiting kids and their parents or go to scary procedures with them and help them feel better for a couple of minutes. The class was on reading the room. Sizing up the characters, the dynamic, the vibe in the room and then selecting a path forward. The kid is hurt, angry, and withdrawn. There’s tension between the hovering adults. What can you do? In seconds they insert themselves, do something odd or funny, draw out the child, and break the tension.
Being sick is often like being in someone else’s play, drama, or comedy, with changing characters. Bewildering. Discombobulating. Often we care partners serve as dresser and assistant director – caring and advocating. It depends on knowing your caree, knowing yourself, knowing what your trying to accomplish together in this scene, and reading the room. The most important part is knowing yourself and taking care of yourself. It takes strength and serenity to read the room and make something happen in minutes, because minutes may be all you have. After taking the Big Apple Circus class, I found that it only takes seconds to step back, be like a sponge, and read the room, then read yourself, then choose an action (observe, do something, build a bridge, get out, advocate, etc.). In real life, reading the room happens over and over and over as new people enter and exit and you move from setting to setting. This allows me to remember that it’s our play, I’m here to accomplish something on behalf of my caree, and I can direct.
Please know, that if this makes sense and you try it, it works sometimes. You can be off your feed, you can misread the scene, something can happen completely unexpected. It never works all the time. Don’t be discouraged. Just sit back and chuckle and try again. You get another chance. You’ll get better at it.