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Working Wounded

A long time ago, when I was still on the track to become an academic, I spent a few years working my way through grad school by teaching English Composition.  Before my first semester of teaching, the grad school did make an effort to make sure we grad students were at least a little ready to manage a classroom.  We took a summer seminar where we talked about pedagogy, syllabus craft, assignment design and other teacher-ish things.  I remember almost none of it.

I do remember one thing, though.  In the midst of a discussion of attendance and absenteeism, our gangly gray-haired professor jumped down from his perch on the edge of the desk and glared at us with his steely blue eyes.  “People,” he said, “I need ya to work WOUNDED.  If you got a cold or whatever, you gotta just power through and hold yer class.  Ya gotta work WOUNDED, people.”

Believe me, we did.  There were moments in our shared grad student office where people would be collapsed on their desks, trying to gather up just enough strength to get to their classroom and power through an hour or so.  There were days when our whole lesson plan was “go sit in small groups so I can sit at the desk so I won’t pass out.”  It got pretty brutal sometimes.

I am so gratified now to work in a career and with humans who know that what you do when you are wounded is heal.  You rest, recover and recuperate.  You most especially do not, under any circumstances, offer to share any potentially contagious thing with your clients.  You model appropriate self care.  I am so gratified to know that now.

Except for the times I don’t.  Recently, I scheduled a trade with another local practitioner.  I was excited to learn more about her modality and to maybe cultivate another referral source for mine.  As the day of her appointment with me approached, I was nursing a mild cold.  Not enough to stop any but the most strenuous of my activities.  On the day of her appointment, I had reached the point where I was past feeling sick, but still coughing and draining pretty impressively.

What I should have done was call her that morning (at the latest) and ask to reschedule the appointment.  What actually happened was much less professional.  She called me about twenty minutes before her appointment time, asking for directions.  Hearing the cold still in my voice (really, you couldn’t miss it) she gently suggested that if I wanted to reschedule, it would not be a problem for her.  So we rescheduled the appointment for the following week. 

I have been thinking about that exchange, and how it highlights the need for continual self-vigilance and review.  Somewhere along the way, I learned only too well how to work wounded.  With clients who were not immune-compromised, I had started to drop my guard.  I am embarrassed that I did not nudge myself to make the right decision, and I am immensely grateful that she modeled appropriate self-care for me. 

In grad school, the concept of working wounded came accompanied by the threat of losing our scholarships and stipends if we missed a day of teaching.  In my life now, the only threat that comes with working wounded, is the threat of remaining wounded and missing the chance to heal properly.  My fellow practitioner reminded me of that.  I am humbled, grateful, and looking forward to working together when I am all the way well again.

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