When your slippers are on the wrong feet.
The other morning, I got out of bed and put my slippers on like I do every morning. As I started to walk toward the kitchen to get the coffee going, I realized I had my slippers on the wrong feet and while I could walk and they were relatively secure, they had been molded to my feet, so they felt awkward and uncomfortable. I was too tired to take them off and switch them around, so I did my morning routine with them that way. Everything felt “off”, and I found myself completely focused on my inability to walk without losing my balance.
This got me thinking about people who are suddenly given a life-changing diagnosis or have an accident or some kind of significant change in their life that makes movement become difficult and uncomfortable. I understand my moment of discomfort is trivial in comparison; they cannot switch their shoes around to make everything back to normal. In fact their normal has changed and now they have to figure out how to do things differently, which is not easy.
As I walked around my home with slippers on the wrong feet, I felt like I was constantly being reminded that something was wrong and different, and that unless I switched the slippers, this would be something I would have to get used to. And while I was contemplating having the choice of switching my slippers, I was reminded of those who do not have the luxury of a choice like that.
When I meet a patient for the first time, it is always after they have been given the news that their slippers would be on the wrong feet for as long as they have left to live. And while my very short-lived discomfort is easily remedied, it does not always work out that way for others and I am very aware of that. This had me thinking about the work I do, and how my role as a hospice nurse and an end-of-life doula is very much all about helping someone else navigate their discomfort and the changes they are experiencing.
I think for me at least, what this has taught and reminded me, is how easily this can happen for every one of us. Life is constantly throwing obstacles and difficulties in our path and none of us are immune, which means we need to be mindful of how fragile we are. And we need to be a little more understanding, patient and compassionate to those who are experiencing that right now, realizing how new and frightening this can be.
We cannot take their slippers off and put them on the right feet, but we can be right there with them every step of the way. And if it is just the beginning of their walk, in shoes that are on the wrong feet, take their hand and remind them they are not doing this alone… and if/when they fall…. you will catch them.