Bruce Lee had an expression to “be like water,” because water seems to be one of the weakest of substances on the planet and yet it can cut through mountains. Water has this ability to take on the form of anything – you put it in a cup and water takes on the form of a cup. You put water in a bathtub and it takes on the form of the bathtub. The moment that water is released from one container it seamlessly and effortlessly takes on the form of its new container. But at the end of the day, even after it has passed through container after container, the structural properties of water are still the same – it is water and its journey has not changed it.
In medicine, we see many people in a day’s journey and we must meet these people where they are at. This requires empathy, expertise, and an empowering presence for each and every encounter. And, what this means for each person is as unique as the person is themselves. But somehow we must learn from Bruce Lee and “be like water,” so at the end of the day we are not changed, discouraged, drained, or overwhelmed – we are simply ourselves.
Monday was an interesting day for me as I had a very unpleasant interaction with a family member of a patient I was trying to help. I tried to connect with this family member even though she was not the patient as she was obviously hurting. She would have none of it. Now I do not know what is going on in her life but what I did in response to her aggression was to put up my hands and walk away instead of engaging. I tried to be loving and caring as best I knew how. My efforts were met with anger and hostility as if I were the cause of the patient’s disease. My success was that I was able to shake it off and not carry it with me for the rest of the day. For those of you who know me well, this was a huge moment and I started to understand what Bruce Lee spoke about decades ago – be like water.
We will see many people today in our clinic and each one will require different things from us. My goal is to not let it change who I am and be more like water, so that there is joy and longevity in the journey.
This message was written by Dr. Anderson, a local dermatologist from Colorado Springs.