Well, the holidays are upon us. The airwaves, malls, and streets are full of the sights and sounds of the season. The universal messages are peace and joy. But for many, those two intangible states are difficult to come even close to, never mind attain.
I think it's especially difficult for those in healthcare. Illness knows no season, and the frailties of the human body seem all the more poignant amid holiday decorations. Even worse may be the psychological pain you witness and sharethe pain of hopelessness, the pain of those who know they will not spend another holiday season together.
And as if the normal flow of patient care didn't provide enough contrast to the ubiquitous calls for festiveness, you also have the seasonal increase in depression to deal with. It would be as easy for you to fall prey as it is for your patients.
Nevertheless, peace and joy are what I wish you, but joy most of all. Because I think peace is easier to achieve if you first have joy.
But, having just said what I did about how difficult it is to find joy, I'm not callous enough to wish it for you without what I hope are some helpful reminders of where to find it.
For many people, joy is easiest to find in their families and loved onessmiles, touches, giggly moments wrestling with a kid on the floor, joining hands around the dinner table, celebrating a birthday or another milestone.
For others, there's nothing that delights more than the glories of naturesunsets, breathtaking cloud formations, the magnificent sight of the sun shining through the branches of an ice-coated maple tree, the crashing waves of the ocean, the gentle gurgling of a brook running through the woods.
And if there are more roadblocks to joy for those in healthcare at this time of year, there are also occasions for joy that others don't havea birth, a remission, a sigh of relief at a negative lab report, a successful surgery, a code that returns a lost life to loved ones.
All these opportunities for joyand countless moreare there for the taking. Yes, "stop and smell the roses" has become a worn out cliché, and sometimes you want to punch the guy who says it to you. But don't let that stop you from enjoying the moment. Or recreating it. Just writing about it lets me actually visualize that ice-coated tree I've seen glistening outside my bedroom window so many times over the years. And that mind-sight makes me happy. It gives me joy, and I feel more at peace than this hectic, deadline-ridden work day would ordinarily allow. There's nothing greater than moments like this that I can wish for you this holiday season. And the beauty of it is that you can give yourself that gift every day.
You deserve it. You do important work. You are a healer. Allow yourself to heal yourself.
Marianne Mattera. Memo from the Editor: Joy.
Dec. 5, 2003;80:9.