Still in reflective mood, a pattern seems to be emerging within my writing therapy. You’ll have to take my word for it, as I’ve only shared a very small proportion of my recent ramblings. I typically employ a free writing technique to stimulate the prescience necessary to rant meaningfully about something crap – like the almost complete and utter ignorance of measurement in my business – only to be sidetracked by the origins of my insights.
On this occasion, I’m sharing my own experience of an event which was a profoundly personal affair, so I’m also going to be a bit vague and elusive, as I set the context. In abstract terms, I’m going to the point of measurement first, to begin to deconstruct the current thinking that ironically misses it. The point that is, in favour of hitting some simple numerical target that’s easier to understand. Simple but wrong.
You don’t have to be Heisenberg to understand that the act of measurement itself, doesn’t actually change the position or nature of the thing being measured. But, how we go about witnessing the thing, drawing it into our own perception of space and time, does profoundly affect how we understand the thing, its meaning. Hold that thought.
While still in Mum’s tum, Rebecca’s Dad got caught in a horrific explosion. He was literally crushed, but somehow alive, albeit in the most basic of terms.
As a result Rebecca’s only experience of her Dad in her early years, was being plonked on the end of his bed at the regular visits. As she grew into a mischievous and playful toddler, Dad moved from his bed to what Rebecca called, the Super Robot Chair. Despite being very weak, Dad could now, move about. She’d run in to the Unit and much to the distress of the nurses, dive onto Dad’s lap and give him a wonderful hug. Then sat in the pilot’s seat and with the world’s biggest smile, she would fly him down the corridor and into the garden. A trail of nurses, therapists and family in hot pursuit.
It’s a very long and arduously slow process, but Dad gets a bit better, the technology gets a lot better and a couple of advancements in surgery mean that a window of opportunity opens. More operations than anyone would ever care to remember, creates a couple of years on the world’s toughest rollercoaster. A little hope and a bucket of courage, gets smacked in the face by several hours of surgery – the table, the bed, the chair and many wonderful hugs later – there’s a little bit more hope, albeit interspersed with several dark days and close calls. The surgeons, nurses, therapists and even the gardeners are absolutely blown away by the seemingly endless will to keep going, if only just.
Now don’t get the picture wrong, Dad’s courage was accompanied by a great deal of determination from all concerned and a certain bloodymindedness, to take the rehabilitation head on. The pain and the frustration matched in equal proportions to the primary result of a bit more strength and a functioning lung: a newly acquired talent for yelling long chains of profanity wheeled out aboard an extraordinary sense of humour. It kept the whole place laughing and seemed to be working, especially when a few of the staff joined in with equal catharsis. At least when Rebecca wasn’t around.
A momentus conversation happened amongst a bit of serendipity, a tsunami of tears and a very serious promise of complete and utter silence. A conciliatory wad of cash had finally arrived and a new family home beckoned, two huge surgical leaps tipped Dad from survival to recovery and a secret was revealed.
It was those wonderful hugs. That’s what had kept him going – faced with what must have been such a frightening scene of a broken and twisted man – it was the love of one little girl that was given freely and fiercely. In his darkest moment Dad had realised that he couldn’t leave, not until he’d given those hugs back, every one of them.
In nine years, Rebecca had given Dad so many wonderful hugs that had literally brought him back to life, yet in her entire life, he’d never had the strength and ability to give one back. So the scene was set. Painfully a few visits were put off, to hide the progress and raise the motivation. A high stool was placed just inside the door of the Day Room and every single patient and member of staff was hidden in various corners, behind curtains and outside windows.
Rebecca bowls in and is instructed to sit on the stool and not to move. “What are you lot up to” she shouts with a giggle and Dad zooms into the room on an old, knackered and patched up Super Robot Chair. To a squeal of delight, he parks a few feet in front of Rebecca and now Mum has to physically hold her back.
It takes a few minutes, with the best sweary therapists alongside, to get Dad going, while the crowd slowly emerges from behind the curtains. Dad was looking down quietly, then lifted his head to reveal a wry smile and the deepest concentrated look of sheer determination, as he drummed up every molecule of strength and love he could muster. He leaned forward and gently and very slowly, with a few wobbles and a helping hand, straightened up and took one small shuffle to balance. Then looking deep into Rebecca’s eyes, he took two small steps and a huge deep breath, before lifting both arms around Rebecca and saying, “I love you”.
Somebody mentioned going home and another squeal of delight was quickly drowned out by the clapping, cheering and crying. I have never forgotten that look on Dad’s face and the superhuman glow around him that seemed to fill the room. He looked like a hero from one of my comics. Rebecca was my friend and this was a very long time ago.
Not such a long time ago, I was asked to help a team struggling to find a voice in their own organisation. Somewhat of a specialist subject, this sort of work is far too fulfilling for me personally, to be anything like hard work. It’s another therapy of mine.
However, I was faced with a room full of people moaning and whining about how unfair their bosses were and how hard they were all working with no appreciation. To begin with and importantly, I responded by acknowledging that they were quite right to feel that way. I also knew that I should try to move them away from this embedded narrative, towards something more constructive that they could use to find the voice that they so desperately wanted.
So I told them about those two super steps and summoning everything that you are, to draw years of pain and progress and love into just a few moments to achieve a goal that the rest of us might take completely for granted. “That’s what hard looks like” was a bit blunt, but it worked.
The Heisenberg Hug…
Well, to tell the truth, it wasn’t just me who helped to stimulate the team into telling some different stories. As I sat there staring down an awkwardly silent crowd of thoughtful faces, I noticed one in the back of the room keeping a low profile and doing its very best to avoid any eye contact.
Then eye to eye for the first time, in a long time, I was utterly embarrassed, having suddenly realised that I was giving away a very intimate moment that didn’t really belong to me. There was a tear or two, but one of them was graciously attached to a wonderful hug and a massive compliment. “Oh my god, you can tell story”, said Rebecca.
Can you image what that hug is worth to me, let alone Dad, and how on earth would you measure it? I wish I could ask Heisenberg.