Throughout our lives, and even throughout our day, we tend to wear multiple masks. We have certain ways we present ourselves at work, with friends and in our intimate relationships. It isn’t appropriate to show up and interact the same way in our job as we do in our personal life. So we may filter how we dress, the language we use and the way we interact with others.
It isn’t about being inauthentic, it is about being appropriate. Consciously choosing our actions to align with what fits different situations reduces the drama and possibility of miscommunications. Sometimes, however, one of our masks overshadows other aspects of ourselves or a situation requires a different approach than normal. Learning to give yourself permission to follow your intuition in these situations is important.
When my late husband first started his chemotherapy, I showed up as I usually do. I was organized, prepared and did what I could to make sure he felt supported and that I wasn’t wasting the time of the experts on our medical team. I came armed with my list of questions, took notes and followed any advice or instruction they could give me on taking care of Gary. I also consistently acknowledged the team members (doctors, oncology nurses and other support staff) for their efforts both with words and thoughtful gifts. Because that is who I am…normally.
However, there came a day when that was not appropriate. Gary had an important appointment with his oncologist to get his most recent scans read. We arrived early, as always. I checked in with his oncology coordinator and asked the question I did every time we came in. Did the doctor have everything he needed for the meeting? The nurse looked into his file and realized that the scan results were missing. After fifteen minutes or so of calls to various departments and searching through files and on desks, she resigned herself to the fact that they were lost.
Working in freelance production taught me to be a dog on a bone…which requires the energy of a rebel sometimes…not being willing to take no can do as an answer. Knowing how nervous Gary was about the results and what a delay of waiting for a day or two while they reprinted and rescheduled pushed me into pit bull mode.
“Where is the last place those scans would have been?”, I asked. The nurse informed me that the radiologist over in another building would have had them. But she assured me that was the first place she had called and no luck. I asked her for directions, turned to Gary and told him I would be right back then marched out the door. I headed directly for the basement to the radiologist’s office and stopped to check in with his nurse. Yes, she had looked for the labs and, no, she hadn’t found them. I asked her to point me to the radiologists office. Apparently the tone of the rebel didn’t give her a second to question allowing a civilian with no ID or hospital affiliation into her boss’ office.
I walked in and took a brief survey of his desk. Just underneath a stack of papers was the brown manilla envelope with Gary’s name marked on it. I grabbed up the results, marched past the nurse announcing I had found them and would hand deliver them to our oncologist now. When I handed them to our oncologist’s coordinator she asked me where I had found them with a stunned look on her face.
“On the radiologist’s desk,” I told her. She smiled and then asked me if I wanted a job. Gary got to see his doctor as scheduled and, that time, the scan results were good.
Sometimes, being graceful, polite & doing it right won’t get you the results you need. To read more on this, check out my blog post on Your Tango but fair warning, it contains adult language and situations and should not be read by minors or those sensitive to profanity…I’m just sayin’…
P.S. To caregivers out there…for the most part, being grateful and acknowledging our medical team was our natural way of interacting with them. But at times when the system was overwhelmed and we were going to get lost somehow, I had to be louder and bolder to make sure Gary’s needs were met. I did this by knowing what his needs were, how they would address them and who would be delivering on them – then held people accountable and always stayed on top of the details. It was about being loud verbally but being a strong presence and an advocate for him. You can do this powerfully without offending others. More to come on this topic.