“I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something I can do.”

Edward Everett Hale

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Permission To Be Vulnerable

A week ago, I had a minor operation, to remove a benign but occasionally painful fibroma from my left thigh. The operation went well, under local anaesthetic, and I was told to come back in  a week, to have the stitches taken out.

image: crowe-associates.co.uk
Well, yesterday I went back. The kind nurse took the dressing off, and I looked at the bruised but healing wound beneath. I'm a real wuss about these things - I don't like blood and guts & icky stuff - and I was dismayed at how yukky it looked. But I could see that the doctor had made a good job of it, and that in time I would be left with a small, neat scar.

Then the nurse dropped her bombshell. "I don't think it's healed quite enough to have the stitches out. Let's leave it for another few days. But leave the dressing off, if you can, and let it get some air, to speed the healing process." I explained that I would be doing a lot of driving over the weekend, so please could I cover it then - yes that would be fine.

So I went home, with the three dressings (one each for Friday, Saturday and Sunday) tucked in my bage. And intended to go about the rest of my daily business, as I had been doing for the last few days.

And was slightly (OK, quite) shocked to realise how vulnerable I was feeling, now that the dressing had been removed. What if I knock it? What if it splits? After a couple of hours of futile and pointless worrying, I phoned the practice number, and asked to speak to the nurse. Fortunately she was still there. I explained how vulnerable and worried I felt with the wound exposed, and her compassion was warm and instantaneous. She told me not to worry; to put a dressing straight back on; and that my leg would heal anyway.

I got off the phone bathed in relief, and so grateful for her kindness and understanding. And then a strange thing happened: the very fact that my vulnerability and worry had been met with compassion and kindness seemed to give me permission to carry on being vulnerable, to take that risk. And 24 hours later, I have still not re-applied that dressing, and the amount of healing overnight is reassuring.

But without that permission to be vulnerable, I would not have had the courage to leave the wound uncovered. And this was made possible by the compassion of the nurse. I thank God for the grace of the kindness, and for the gift of courage.

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