There are days that I want to ask the hospital at large: “When do I get my personhood back? When am I treated like I have the dignity that everyone else does?”
I want to be comfortable where I work. I want to be safe to be myself and express my limitations. Instead, I cork up dozens of questions a week. I’ve violated the sterile field a half dozen times and don’t bring it up. I hate being told that I can’t do something because being so uninvolved, it's not what I’m paying for, and I have more to offer. I hate being told that I can do something because I will be watched, I will fear derision and misunderstanding, I will fumble out of fear, I will put on my game face and fumble out of incompetence, or I will get lucky and be deluded so that the next fumble hurts more.
I want is to be satisfied with the way my life is going. I want the basic esteem of others. “Oh,” is all I wish that people would think when they saw me, “she’s a medical student. You know, those people can’t do much. But they sure try.”
Once, I caught myself apologizing to someone in these exact words:
“I’m so sorry for taking up so much space!”
After uttering this ridiculous sentence, I went out the nearest door in a polite rush. Only after the door shut behind me did I shake my head and think, “what a stupid thing to say. I’m taking my own personhood away; apparently, I don’t need anyone else’s help.”
So, now that it is the fourth year of medical school, I am deciding: no one is taking my dignity away, least of all me. If they demean me in the OR, they are doing something inappropriate. I will graciously excuse them, like one ignores a person passing gas.
I am determined never again to agree with the lie that I am a worthless idiot. That lie leads to an psychological hell.
Part of the reason I became such a doormat/basket-case of self-critical emotions and permitted everyone else’s criticisms (petty or cruel) to sink me, was that I had a lousy idea about humility. I had this glorified picture of religious life in somewhere between 1600 and 1900 in which saints were made by kissing floors. Didn’t St. Bernadette, St. Jeanne Jugan, St. Therese, and many others have to be grossly misunderstood and abused to become saints? Don’t you have to believe all the derogatory things people say about you if you want true humility? Yeah! So, I was excited because I’d heard (correctly) that the third year was a lot like a floor-kissing novitiate.
But there is a basic misunderstanding there. Cultures that file away at personal dignity crowd out holiness! A person tossed around in such a culture becomes so distraught over himself and convinced of his incapacity that he can’t have the magnanimity a saint needs to become like the all-loving God. Believing himself to be a microscopic locket—always too small, always wanting, always disappointing—this miserable man can’t imagine becoming a vault, a temple.It is a lie of Satan that I am worthless. I want to do great things for God. I want God, I want to be like Him, and I expect He will make us that way. So if I ever stoop to another floor for a kiss, it will be because Jesus is there, waiting to kiss me back and make me His gorgeous, eternal, perfect bride.