AN UNCOMFORTABLE TRUTH

‘I’ll go along with the charade until I can think my way out’

Bob Dylan

Recently a patient presented at the practice where I work having been sent to us by a doctor from the local minor injuries unit. She had been advised to request an urgent blood test to determine her blood levels for a certain heavy metal on after an ECG she’d had had shown some minor abnormalities. It subsequently turned out however that the automated report had attributed these abnormalities not, as had been believed, to lead poisoning but merely to lead positioning!

An embarrassing mistake to have been made by somebody who had clearly not been thinking properly. But before we laugh too loudly, I wonder how many times we too have stopped thinking for ourselves, failed to see what was there to be seen and addressed only our own ideas, concerns and expectations rather than those of our patients.

As time pressured clinicians it is all too easy for us to stop thinking for ourselves and fall into stereotypical patterns of behaviour based on the assumptions we make and which, though they may speed our decision making, too often serve our purposes more than they do our patients causing us as they do to draw conclusions which steer us down those familiar paths along which we find it more comfortable to travel.

Might it be that we too have stopped thinking properly, failed to see what was in plain sight and thereby absolved ourselves from any responsibility to help as we have passed blindly by on the other side? I don’t doubt that I have, on occasions, done just that and am left asking myself why that might be.

Of course the easy answer to that question would be to say that it’s because I’m either too lazy, too incompetent or too busy to address the problems that are presented to me properly. I suspect that, if I am am honest, each of those explanations have almost certainly sometimes been true, but another explanation might be that, rather than face the distress of a problem that cannot be solved, it has sometimes been easier for me to not notice what medicine cannot fix.

In his book, ‘How to think’, Alan Jacobs writes of how, once established, the consensus is hard to challenge because there is great comfort in sharing the commonly held position. He quotes Marilynne Robinson who suggests we have a ‘collective eagerness to disparage without knowledge or information’ alternative or unpopular views ‘when the reward is the pleasure of sharing an attitude one knows is socially approved.’

If this is true, as doctors we are, in the medical setting, predisposed, without thinking, to endorse the view that medicine can solve all our problems because we know that, given they have presented to us, those we are talking to are likely to share this view, and will approve of us for so doing. This is, perhaps, particularly true on account of how so many of us in medina do so want to be liked.

We are, in the moment of the consultation, invested in not thinking because, it would feel too uncomfortable to disagree because, as Robinson puts it, ‘unauthorised views are in effect punished by incomprehension…as a consequence of a “hypertrophic instinct for consensus”.’

Jacobs asserts that if we want to think, then we ‘are going to have to shrink that “hypertrophic instinct for consensus.” But, he says, ‘given the power of the instinct, it is extremely unlikely that [we will be] willing to go to that trouble”

Jacobs believes that the ‘instinct for consensus is magnified and intensified in our era because we deal daily with a wild torrent of what claims to be information but is often nonsense’. That is certainly true in the medical world where nonsensical demands are too often unjustifiably imposed upon us. Jacobs quotes T.S. Eliot who, almost a century ago, wrote, ‘When there is so much to be known, when there are so many fields of knowledge in which the same words are used with different meanings, when everyone knows a little about a great many things, it becomes increasingly difficult for anyone to know whether he knows what he is talking about or not.’ And in such circumstances, ‘when we do not know, or when we do not know enough, we tend always to substitute emotions for thoughts.’

That is, confused about what to believe, we will default to what feels comfortable and agree with the consensus, the perceived wisdom. Could it be then that when we are presented with a problem we cannot fix, a problem for which medicine is not the answer, the cognitive dissonance we therefore experience serves to make it less likely that we will see that problem at all and and end up seeing only those with which we feel we can deal.

Jacobs believes that ‘anyone who claims not to be shaped by such forces is almost certainly self-deceived.’ We are social beings who need to feel accepted and, since agreeing feels good, we are prone to toe the line. ‘For most of us’, Jacobs suggests, ‘the question is whether we have even the slightest reluctance to drift along with the flow. The person who genuinely wants to think will have to develop strategies for recognising the subtlest of social pressures…The person who wants to think will have to practice patience and master fear.’

So could we as General Practitioners do that? Could we practise patience and master fear and thus resist the ‘hypertrophic instinct’ which insists that medicine is the answer to all our problems.

I’d like to think we could but it will be uncomfortable, as speaking the truth often. It’ll mean giving up the charade that as doctors we have all the answers and accepting instead that there are times when we can do no more than simply notice the distress our patients are experiencing, acknowledge it for what it is and, perhaps, try to ease it a little by being human enough to sit alongside them and share in it with them for a while.

Which will be a whole lot more use than another unnecessary blood test.

On not remotely caring

‘Those who feel the breath of sadness, sit down next to me

Those who feel they’re touched by madness, sit down next to me

Those who find themselves ridiculous, sit down next to me’

James

Back in the 1960’s, in the days before research required ethical approval, American social psychologist Stanley Milgram, carried out a series of experiments designed to investigate the extent to which subjects would submit to the demands of those in authority. Individuals, believing that they were assisting research into how punishment influenced somebody’s ability to learn, were, on the instruction of an ‘experimenter’, asked to act as ‘teachers’ and administer electric shocks to ‘learners’ every time they failed to answer a question correctly. With each wrong answer the ‘learner’ gave, the strength of the administered electric shock increased. Unbeknownst to the ‘teachers’ however, it was they and not the ‘learners’ who were the real subjects of the experiment. In reality no electric shocks were being given and the ‘learners’ were merely actors who were simulating the effects of the shocks that they were supposedly receiving. The study revealed an alarming willingness on the part of subjects to act against their conscience when told to do so by authority figures with some, on the say so of another, even prepared to give potentially lethal electric shocks to vulnerable individuals with supposed heart conditions.

But what, to me at least, is more interesting still, is how the subjects of the study were prepared to give significantly higher shocks, when those supposedly receiving them were at a greater degree of separation from they who were administering them. That is, as the strength of the shocks got increasingly more dangerous, subjects were more inclined to refuse to administer them when they were able to see the one supposedly being shocked than when they could only hear their apparent cries of anguish. And they were more willing to administer the most dangerous shocks to those from whom they more separated, those who they were kept from both seeing and hearing.

It would seem therefore that the less contact people have with others the less they are concerned about their welfare and the more they are prepared to act against conscience in order to just get the job done.

I wonder if this has something to say us who, over the last year in particular, have been encouraged to remain remote from our patients. Leaving aside the dangers of missing important diagnoses and the withholding of human contact from those who really would profit simply from sometimes seeing us, could it be that working remotely has adverse effects on us too? Might it be that the less contact we have with those for whom we are supposed to care leaves us less concerned about their welfare than we might otherwise have been and result in our being more likely to simply going through the motions as we too just seek to get the job done? And as a result of less time with us, might our patients end up caring less about us too?

A year ago we heard a lot about the so called ‘new normal’ but make no mistake, there has been nothing normal about the virtual world we have been living and working in this last year. We are all diminished by such a virtual existence. As tentative steps now begin to be made towards a life without restrictions I hope we won’t seek to hold on to our remote methods of consulting, or, at least, not too tightly. For though some problems may genuinely benefit from such an approach, many do not. And even though some conditions can be managed perfectly safely over the phone, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t better dealt with face to face. I know for sure that this week I have made at least one better, more humane, decision as a result of seeing a patient I might otherwise have even tempted to manage from a distance.

Since, as Milgram’s experiments seem to suggest, remote care runs the risk of us not remotely caring, avoiding patient contact is detrimental for both patients and doctors alike. Furthermore, by working at arms length from our patients, we have allowed much of the satisfaction that the job once held to slip though our fingers. As restrictions begin to lift, rather than holding onto the remote consulting that some see as more efficient, I believe we would do well to once again make face to face consultations with patients our normal working practice. By doing so, not only will we providing better care, we will begin to grab back some of the job satisfaction that has been lost in the last year.

Two years ago I wrote of my unease about how medicine was being encouraged to adopt more remote ways of delivering healthcare. That article can be read here. I never imagined then that I would be practicing the way I have been forced to this past last year, avoiding patient contact wherever possible. For me it has not been a happy transition and it has not been one I have found terribly easy, Even so, as we now move slowly out of lockdown, such a remote existence must not be allowed to become the norm, not for medicine, nor, indeed, for any other area of our day to day lives. Because it’s simply not healthy.

Humans are social creatures, to fully live we need to have contact with one another, we need to touch. When lovers kiss, it’s more than just a sign of their love, it is an act of love too. And that’s important because more than simply knowing we’re loved, we need to feel it too.

We need to be present in each other’s lives. As in the words of the song, ‘It’s hard to carry on when you feel all alone’. Sometimes, when it seems there is nothing one can do, to simply be there is of genuine value. In ‘Out of Solitude’, Henri Nouwen wrote,

‘When we honestly ask ourselves which persons in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.’

Perhaps that is also the type of GP who cares. If Milgram’s experiments have anything at all to teach us, perhaps it is this: that it is not simply that those who care will draw close to those in difficulty but rather it is those who draw close to those in difficulty who will find themselves caring for others in ways that they wouldn’t otherwise have been able.

We have all had to endure it for nearly a year now, but over the coming months let’s look to leave social distancing behind – in all its forms. And let’s look to sit down with, and care for, each other once more.

Because living a contactless life isn’t a remotely good idea. It would be shocking to think otherwise.


To read ‘Contactless’, the article mentioned in the above post that was written two years ago, click here

To read ‘Eleanor Rigby is not at all fine’, click here

To read ‘Hannah Arendt is completely fine, click here

To listen to the song ‘Sit Down’ by James, click here. You can even sing along – you know you want to!

Spare me a doctor…

Spare me a doctor, who makes the mistake
Of telling me how, I must stop eating cake
Who hasn’t a hint of the apologetic
When he tells me at 90 I’m pre-diabetic
One who in truth is a silly old fool
Who’s not learnt a thing since at medical school
One who insists he must always keep trying
And solemnly swears that he’ll keep me from dying.

After W.H. Auden


And Auden’s original.

Give me a doctor partridge-plump
Short in the leg and broad in the rump
An endomorph with gentle hands
Who’ll never make absurd demands
That I abandon all my vices
Nor pull a long face in a crisis,
But with a twinkle in his eye
Will tell me that I have to die.


Picture is from Van Gogh’s Portrait of Dr. Gachet

Old Hands

After long months apart,

For a few short minutes

They sit at arms length,

And hold each other’s hand.

.

A touching scene,

that came too late

A tear filled struggle, to discern,

Just who the other is.

.

She, his bride whom he a lifetime loved,

He, a stranger in a mask,

Who remembers she’s forgotten,

Who discovers that she’s lost.


To read ‘I knew a Man’, click here

To read ‘Room Enough’, click here

To read ‘Beaten’, click here

To read ‘She’s The Patient You Don’t Know You Have’, click here

To read ‘Resting in Pieces’, click here

To read ‘Crushed’, click here

To read ‘Masked’, click here

To read ‘Patient’, click here

To read ‘Yesterday and Today’, click here

WWJD – What Would Jack Do?

‘I have found that attending to one’s own faults is seldom as entertaining as attending to those of others. But it is generally more profitable.’

Jack Leach is a man I admire greatly, both for what I see of him on the cricket field and for what I read about him off it. Writing after England’s win over India in the first test at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai, the former England captain, Michael Vaughan, wrote this about the England and Somerset slow left arm bowler:

‘Sometimes there is one character who defines a team. For England it is Jack Leach. Yes Stokes, Anderson, Root and Archer are world class. But Leach stands out for me as someone who epitomises what this England team is about. He has got immense character and spirit. He has a lot of self-doubt but he keeps going. He bounced back from that pummelling by Rishabh Pant and the way he bats down the order with such courage proves his inner fight. It tells you the team are together. Every team needs a Leach…alongside world-class players. They are not necessarily the most talented players but they have the biggest strength of all, which is wanting to fight for the team’.

This weeks second test was not so enjoyable for England supporters with India comprehensively winning a one sided game. Leach still took half a dozen wickets but he was unable to recreate his batting heroics of a couple of years ago when his one not out proved vital in England’s win over Australia at Headingley in 2019. This week though, as England vainly attempted to save the match, Leach was out for a first ball duck.

Even so it’s still the case that, ‘every team needs a Leech’. And not just cricket teams. Primary Health Care Teams need one too.

Though, perhaps, it would be fun to be a GP version of a Ben Stokes or Joe Root, a world class doctor capable of great acts of medical heroism, the plain truth is that I’m not. The reality is that I’m not the greatest doctor in the world, nor am I the greatest doctor in my practice. And sometimes, I’m not even sure I’m the greatest doctor in the consulting room when the only people there are me and my patient. Like Jack Leach, I know what it is to experience self doubt and to sometimes fall short. Perhaps you do too. But even so, we who are not the most talented still remain important members of the teams we are a part, both inside and outside of work. Because ‘every team needs a Leach’.

The problem for many of us though is that we tend to compare ourselves with the most magnificent and often end up feeling, therefore, a poor second best. Perhaps then we would do well to stop imagining we could ever perform at the levels of those exceptional, seemingly superhuman, individuals we sometimes read about. Perhaps we need to accept a more modest, but no less important role. Perhaps, instead of wondering how we can magic up a degree of awesomeness that is beyond us, we would do well to sometimes simply ask ourselves ‘WWJD – What Would Jack Do?

If we do we may come up with a helpful answer, one which encourages us to keep going despite our weakness and failures, one which spurs us on to keep fighting for the team.

I don’t know about you but I sometimes find myself wanting nothing more from the working week than to get through it unscathed. But taking such an attitude never leaves me with any sense of satisfaction. I want and need to be part of a bigger cause than that, one that has me looking for more than to merely leave work promptly at the close of play, one that will stretch me beyond my abilities and which will mean that I therefore sometimes fail. Because to settle for a life in which all I want is for my reputation to remain intact and to have enough free time to make full use of my Netflix subscription will see me having settled for something that I will not find fulfilling.

So sometimes it’s good for me to be out of my depth, even if on occasions it means I start to drown, for it is then that I most feel my need of others, it is then I most feel my need of rescue.

Like England’s test players, even the best teams have bad days. But it’s important that we maintain the fighting spirit of a Jack Leach and seek to display something of his character and courage in order that we may continue to play our part, even on those bad days which are due to our own weaknesses. Though it will sometimes be painful we still need to bear that pain, alongside team mates who hopefully will be there for us just as we are there for them when they too inevitably make their mistakes. But it’ll be worth it because, regardless of how little credit we ourselves may receive, much that is achieved by the teams we are a part is genuinely worthwhile, whether that be Team GP, other working teams or the teams made up by the members of our own family. And it is frequently all on account of the seemingly small things.

Because, sometimes, even a modest ‘1 – not out’ makes all the difference.

Even so, there will be occasions, like it was for Jack Leach this week, when even the small things will be beyond us. The sad truth is that sometimes we simply will not possess the strength of character that we aspire to, our courage will leave us and we will let ourselves and others down. At such times, however long we spend asking ourselves ‘What would Jack do?’, we will nonetheless find ourselves unable to perform the way we would like. Because, let’s face it, we’re none of us as great as Jack Leach is portrayed in Micheal Vaughan description of him above. I doubt that even Jack Leach himself is always that perfect in his weakness. If, then, we hope to ease our burden by simply lowering our expectations, by contenting ourselves with being a Jack Leach rather than a Ben Stokes, we will find that we will not actually have eased our burden at all. Because however hard we try, and however modest our ambition, we simply won’t always be up to the task.

It won’t only be others then, that we disappoint, it will be we ourselves as well. So when we feel that weak, that powerless, when we find that all we have is nothing and it is no further use to keep on asking what it is that we should do, what then?

When unsure of what to do, there are some who walk in similar circles to me who ask themselves what another ‘J’ would do and seek then to act as he would. But whilst it is not wrong to do so, it is foolish to imagine that we will ever fully succeed since, if we can’t attain to the standards of a Jack Leach, how will we ever attain to the standards of one who really was perfect. For me then, whilst appreciating that on occasions it may be helpful to ask what that particular ‘J’ would do, realising full well that the answer might be to suffer and die for those who don’t deserve it, when I am conscious of having messed up, when I am at the end of myself and am finding life a struggle, I find it helpful to ask a different question. Rather than asking ‘WWJD’ I ask myself ‘WHJD – what has Jesus done?’ And what did he achieve as he hung there?. For it’s the answer to that particular question that gets me through the night when I am particularly conscious of my weakness and failure.

Because when my best is not good enough, it’s good to know that somebody else’s is.


To read ‘For when we can’t see why’, click here

beaten

without understanding

the rules

to the game

in which she never wanted to compete,

she only knows that

she’s lost

.

defeated

by a system

too strong for her,

its victory, one

for which she herself

has unwittingly

worked

.

beaten,

she no longer wants

to play

.

[The title picture is of a sculpture by Grace Erskine Crum entitled ‘Hopelessness]


To read ‘She’s The Patient You Don’t Know You Have’, click here

To read ‘Resting in Pieces’, click here

To read ‘Crushed’, click here

To read ‘Masked’, click here

To read ‘Patient’, click here

‘THE DIG’ – IT’S WELL WORTH IT

‘Raking is easy, but all you get is leaves; digging is hard, but you might find diamonds.’

John Piper

Recently I watched ‘The Dig’, the excellent new Netflix Film based on the Sutton Hoo archeological excavation. It is well worth a watch. Alongside the story of Basil Brown, the amateur archaeologist who, in 1938, began exploring what lay beneath a grassy mound near Woodbridge in Suffolk, the film explores the importance of trying to hold on to the transient by remembering the past.

I’ll not spoil the film for those who have yet to see it, but the character of Rory is at one point asked what it was that drew him to photography. He gives the answer, ‘It’s just a way of trying to fix things as they go past, to keep what’s vital from being lost’.

‘To keep what’s vital from being lost’. I suppose that’s what, in large measure, we who are doctors, along with all those in healthcare and, indeed, many other fields too, are trying to do in our work as, daily, we act to try to preserve the preciousness of life. But we are not up to the task. Like the character who is distressed by his failure to protect the one he had been charged to care for, and no matter how much, like him, it’s not what we want to hear, we too have to be sometimes reminded of the truth: ‘We all fail, every day. There are some things we just can’t succeed at, no matter how hard we try.’

A little later in the film Rory asks Peggy, one of the site archaeologists, what would be left of them both if a thousand years were to pass in and instant. Looking around her Peggy replies, ‘Parts of your watch, the torch, fragments of the mug’. Rory then adds what Peggy’s words have left unspoken, ‘But every last scrap of you and I would disappear’.

It’s a sobering thought, one which brings with it with an implication, expressed in the words of another character who reveals what she herself has come to realise, that ‘Life is very fleeting. There are moments you should seize’.

But if there are moments that we should seize, then there are moments that we should remember. Because the past is part of who we are, part of what makes us what we are today and part of what will determine our tomorrow. I’m not referring here merely to our own personal back story, on the contrary, as the film seeks to portray, we are all shaped to some extent by the whole of human history.

As Basil Brown has to be reminded, his work ‘isn’t about the past or even the present. It’s for the future. So that the next generations can know where they came from. The line that joins them to their forebears.’

Our past, it is suggested, will last longer than our future.

So, as we consult with our patients, perhaps we should sometimes cease from our constant striving to achieve those things which we can not hope to succeed at and seek instead to remember together what it is that we are all a part. As individuals ‘We die. We die and we decay. We don’t live on.’ But, as Basil Brown replies to the one who speaks these stark words, ‘From the first human handprint on a cave wall, we’re part of something continuous’. As a result, Brown claims, ‘We don’t really die’.

It’s a comforting notion but is it one that’s true? For, no matter how prettily we try to wrap it up, the ugly reality is that we do all die. Even so, perhaps there is something worth thinking about here. If we make our lives only about ourselves and what we can experience or achieve, all of what we are will indeed die with us. But if we are part of something bigger, something we gladly accept our being a part of, something vast that continues on beyond the few years of our existence, then there is a sense in which what we are does indeed continue after our death.

Sometimes we, as well as our patients would do well to be encouraged to appreciate this bigger picture. Because sometimes, rather than looking in, it is better to look out, rather than looking down, it’s better to look up, and rather than looking forward, it’s better to look back.

Without denying the ugliness of death, we all need to remember the beauty of life. There are moments that we do indeed need to fix as they go past, moments that ground us in something bigger than the here and now, moments that will stop us from being lost in our own individual present and, perhaps, enable us to muster some hope for our future. Maybe it is the inability to do this that contributes to the tragedy of dementia, that cruel disease that vividly displays for us the importance of our need to remember, that we are not meant to live merely in the moment, that we are not meant to live such lonely disconnected lives.

But if we would do well to see our lives as a small part of the whole of human history, might we not do even better by considering if we might not be part of something even greater still? I believe we would. And that’s why, unlike Alistair Campbell, who famously said that he didn’t, I do ‘do God’, both here and, yes, occasionally, with my patients too. For me it’s too important not to. It is dishonest to pretend that medicine has all the answers to the problems that we are presented with, not least that of our own inevitable demise. Our lives are about far more than merely attending to our clinical parameters in the vain hope of eking out a few short additional years of life. For, no matter how meticulous we are in adhering to clinical guidelines, all our lives will, in time, draw to an end.

Even so, it is my belief that my death will be but temporary, for I consider that my life really is a part of something far bigger than my own individual existence, that life really is all about someone who is far greater than me, and that that someone really will one day restore everything to how it was always meant to be. And it is all on account of what has happened in the past that, regardless of how difficult the present might be, I can remain confident that the future really will be as good as it has been promised to be.

Because the dig really is worth it in order that we might uncover what happened, not under a grassy mound in Suffolk but on top of a green hill far away. Like Basil Brown could say of Sutton Hoo, I can say of Calvary, that ‘a man could dig the earth his whole life through and not find anything like I’ve discovered here’. For there is found the greatest treasure of all, in amongst which is a future where every tear will have been wiped away and death shall be no more.

For me then, if we are to not really die, it’s that particular historical event that we all need to remember. It’s that which is truly vital, it’s that which must not be lost.


To read ‘Something to feast your eyes on’, click here

To read ‘Don’t forget to be ordinary, if you want to be happy’, click here

To read ‘Hope comes from believing the promises of God’, click here

To read ‘On being confronted by the law’, click here

To read ‘The Resurrection – is it just rhubarb?’, click here

To read ‘Easter Sunday’, click here

To read ‘Good Friday’, click here

SHOT OF LOVE

SHOT OF LOVE

This week brought the sad news of Captain Sir Tom Moore’s death with coronavirus. The last of his 100 years was certainly a remarkable one as he made the headlines, and many admirers, by lovingly walking around his garden a hundred times. As a result of his tremendous fundraising efforts, £33 million was donated to NHS charities. I, for one, am grateful for his efforts.

Another frail elderly man died this week. Also from Covid 19. Few will know his name, just those who loved him for who he was, many of whom won’t have been fully aware of the ‘heroics’ of his life, how he worked to provide for his family, how, year after difficult year, he was there for his children, and how it was his habit to show kindness to those he lived alongside in the community where he made his home.

His too was a remarkable yet ordinary life.

Last weekend I spent a day at a local vaccination centre. One patient stood out as she was wheeled to the station where I was working. Lost under a swathe of blankets, her bent body was curled up in one of those chairs which allowed her to lie out rather than insisting that she be sat up. With her chin on her chest and her eyes closed, she neither said, nor appeared to hear, anything. Hers seemed to be a life that it might have been easy to dismiss as without value but for the fact that she was clearly loved by the daughter who brought her. I did not know the story of her life but, as we tunnelled through the layers in order to find a small area or aged skin in which to plunge a needle, it felt good to live in a society that values the elderly enough to offer the vaccine to all, regardless of an individual’s achievements or current economic worth. It was a privilege and a genuine joy to vaccinate this particular elderly lady.

It is good to herald the exceptional achievements of individuals, but we do, I think, need to be a little careful that in doing so we don’t lose sight of the value of the ordinary. Most of us will not achieve greatness in the eyes of the world, but our everyday contributions still make a significant difference to those among whom we live and work. Furthermore, as my vaccinated elderly lady demonstrates, our value isn’t lost the moment we no longer contribute or achieve in the way we may once have done.

Life shouldn’t be competitive, a race to see who wins, rather it should be collaborative, ensuring we all get to the finish line in as fit a state as is possible. Constantly judging each other’s worth, on the basis of our achievements does none of us any good, burdening as it does the currently ‘successful’ with the need to maintain their lofty position whilst demonising and demoralising those deemed to have failed. We, and those with whom we live alongside, need to learn how to be kinder to one another, accepting each other and acknowledging our humanness. We need to stop insisting that we all must be more than we actually are and start, instead, to accept one another despite our being the flawed people we, inevitably, sometimes prove ourselves to be.

Because we would all feel a lot more loved if we all became a lot more loving.

Captain Tom is quoted as saying that he always believed that things would get better, that the sun would shine again and that we’d all have a lovely day tomorrow. He’s not the first to have said such a thing. Some of us will be familiar with the words of the psalmist who wrote how, ‘Weeping may tarry for the night but joy comes in the morning’. I don’t doubt the truth of these words written, as they were, thousands of years ago, but equally we must accept that, for some, the night has already been long and the day still seems an eternity away.

So until that better tomorrow, that wonderful day when all our tears will have been wiped away, we’ll do well to support the weak as well as celebrate the strong, to rejoice with those who rejoice whilst weeping with those who weep.

Because one day soon, we too may be glad to have somebody who loves us enough to wheel us to a vaccination centre under a sea of blankets and allow us to be the recipient of what is itself an expression of something we all need – a shot of love.


Related posts:

To read ‘Room Enough’ , please click here

To read ‘Vaccinating to remain susceptible’, please click here

To read ‘True Love?’, please click here

To read ‘Because sometimes not even chocolate is enough’, please click here

To read ‘Professor Ian Aird – A Time To Die’, please click here

To read ‘“The Medical Condition” or ‘Hannah Arendt is completely fine”’, please click here

To read ‘For when we can’t see’, please click here

To read ‘Don’t forget to be ordinary, if you want to be happy’, please click here

To read ‘Somewhere over the rainbow’, please click here

To read ‘When the jokes on you’, please click here

To read ‘With great power’, please click here

To read ‘Nikki Alexander – Dr Perfect?’, please click here

Room Enough

With her back bent, and her eyes closed,

she is lost in a sea of blankets.

She says, and hears, nothing.

.

But still, she is lovingly brought,

The wheels of her chair turn,

As she takes hers.

.

In silence

A small island of aged skin is found

Yet there’s room enough – for her

.

To finally, fully feel,

The point of it all –

In the jab of a needle.


To read ‘I knew a man’, click here

She’s the patient you don’t know you have

She’s the patient you don’t know you have
Sat all alone
Forgotten, unknown
She’ll not answer her phone
She’s the patient you don’t know you have

She prefers it that way

She’s the patient you don’t know you have
She’s given herself licence
To suffer in silence
Her pain and her violence
She’s the patient you don’t know you have

She prefers it that way

She’s the patient you don’t know you have
Her tears you’ll not see
They’re for her eyes only
She’ll just let them be
She’s the patient you don’t know you have

She prefers it that way

If only for today