A couple of weeks ago, the pastor at my church spotlighted my work as a veterinarian and in the process repeatedly referred to me as a “healer.” I have never thought of myself as such. “Healer” sounds so mystical, wise, and honorable in nature: none of those words fit me well or comfortably. I tend to see and conduct myself in relation to a different description. I think of my- self and am proudest when I am and have been referred to as a “scientist,” though it does sounds a bit cold and calculating. So I have warmed to the idea of being a healer. I am a healer. There I said it.
People think what I do is special and maybe they are correct. For me it is normal. Just what I do and what I have always wanted to be. Though my Mom and Dad are and always will be my heroes along with my siblings, there were others I looked up to. I wanted to be like Marlin Perkins, Bill Burred, and Daktari, the animal experts real and fictional on the television programs of my youth.
And let’s not leave out the quarterly National Geographic specials. I just was too naïve to realize the odds of my getting into and through vet school were not on my side. Blessed, fortunate, and hard work best define my achievement. I have gone from being very bad to very good at being a veterinarian over the years.
In that process I have also been blessed to become a better person. As a result of that personal betterment process I tend to inadvertently present a bit of a laissez-faire attitude at times. A perfect example was the opening party for the clinic.
It was a hectic day and I arrived 40 minutes late for my own party. As I entered the building with one hand holding the strings of a bunch of inflated balloons and the other a large kitchen knife for the cake, the metaphorical dichotomy of my possessions did not escape me: the left hand representing freedom, the other potential destruction of that freedom. The door opened and thirty people began singing “Happy Birthday” in realization and celebration of the very obvious changes occurring in my life. As I smiled and soaked it all in, the moment was bittersweet.
Seven months earlier I lost my family when my 16 year relationship with my partner ended. I consider that event the greatest personal failure of my life. I have written about it many times and how that event is a driving force and reason I immersed myself into to my professional life as a means of compensating for the loss in my personal life. Some people drink or seek other ways to alter their consciousness, if not mask their pain. I work because I find it easier to help and worry about the pains and concerns of others than my own. My actions didn’t make anything go away, just delayed my dealing with my failures. That time is over.
Now nearly nine months later I finally realize, to deal with the loss I must acknowledge the loss, not attempt to ignore it by working myself to exhaustion or doing other stupid, self- destructive things; accept failure and figure out how to move past it. Easier said than done, but it has to be done. Now is the time.
A crucial part of the healing process is allowing one to go through the process; failure is followed by a new beginning. I have chosen to allow the healing process to proceed without my usual preemptive self-intervention; to accept the new beginning as it comes. Wounds, be they physical or psychological, do heal in time if we let them. Any good healer knows that. I have been told I am a good healer.
So the healer is going to heal himself. Let’s see how good I really am.