Heal Thyself

I want to heal.

That is, I want to heal others.

No, no, I don’t want to go back to school and become a doctor. That’s kind of a silly thought for a guy who did not take one undergraduate science class (and only got through some of his high school work with a little, uh, “help” from much smarter friends [thanks, Radion!]).

I guess I’d rather do some kind of laying-on-of-hands kind of thing: Touch the forehead of the afflicted and poof! Their maladies are no more. (We are quickly seeing that this desire does not have much of a foundation in reality, hmm?)

All right, so I will never be an MD or a faith healer. But aren’t there other ways for an average bloke to help make others whole? That is what healing is about, after all, etymologically speaking – achieving wholeness.

I started thinking about this the other day, after talking to a new friend. From our first meeting I was struck by her dissatisfaction with her job, one that she had spent years preparing for, and then moved many hundreds of miles to actually start. And ain’t this a bitch, she found out she often hated it. But she feels locked in, for economic reasons mostly. As she unfolded this tale that first time, and amplified her frustration over it since, I have been gripped by this desire to do something for her. To either help her shift her attitude toward the situation, or find some concrete way out of it. But I can do neither. And that pains me.

She thought it was sweet that I felt sorry for her. No, I wanted to say: It’s not just feeling sorry, sympathy or empathy or what have you. I want to make you whole. Make you feel complete and happy in your own skin and eager to face each new day. And I realized today that there have been other times when I’ve wanted to do this, to end another’s emotional or physical or spiritual suffering.

Take the Ex. From the start of our relationship, I tried to steer her toward a more healthful vegetarian diet, because, I don’t know, eating fake cake frosting out of a can didn’t seem like the road to Wellville. And when other chronic conditions arose or she felt emotionally out of sorts, I counseled about alternative medicines and practitioners, as much as my limited knowledge allowed. Now, you could say this was all the efforts of a kinda-overbearing busybody or know-it-all. Yeah, I guess. But the motive was pure, believe me: her wholeness.

There were other examples. Like the time I walked into a nursing home, audiocassette in hand, containing some of the favorite songs of my youth. And of my first love’s youth. Songs we listened to together over and over when we were still several years away from getting our license or losing our virginity (not to each other, much to my eternal disappointment; this is all chronicled in minute detail in the oft-mentioned solo show, one of the catalysts for C?WC?). The tape was supposed to be a miracle cure. My first love was reduced to a near-vegetable, after a botched suicide attempt. We had not seen each other in almost 15 years. She, as I sat beside her bed at the home, had no clue who I was. But I, foolish or self-important sap, thought that by making this tape and playing it for her, I could unlock some part of the brilliant, creative woman she had once been. Do what trained specialists could not do. Make her whole. Or at least restore some semblance of wholeness.

What a simpleton.

And then I remembered that bedside vigil some 4 years ago, as my family waited for my father to die. The stroke was massive, the doctors said, and we decided we would not take any extraordinary measures to prolong his life, given the prognosis they painted. Now, this time, even I realized there was no miraculous restoration of wholeness awaiting him from my efforts. But I thought the loving words I spoke, the hesitant touches of his increasingly lifeless body, would somehow penetrate the crippling state and ease his transition to the other side. Who knows what if anything they did.

So is this actually more about some really fucked-up delusions of grandeur on my part? I guess. But the impulse is genuine, that striving to bring wholeness to others. I just don’t have the skills do it.

Maybe part of the problem is not being whole myself. Oh, put aside the chronic pains and neuroses and the still-too-strong memories of the “easy” cancer. The marital dissolution left me feeling very shattered, sick with the pain of sadness and loneliness and even more-than-usual worries about the future. I have survived the worst, true, but some days…some days still feel pretty unhealthy. Unwhole.

I will keep working on myself. But that impulse to do what I can for others, it remains. To those I try to help, remember this: I am not a doctor, I do not play one on TV, and others might be better suited to address your complaints. But I will do what I can. For your sake, and because I think the concern for others is therapeutic for me too (ah, you knew their had to be a selfish angle).

But mostly, I want to heal.

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~ by mburgan on February 4, 2011.

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