Is there anyone who hasn’t watched West Wing?
There’s a reason this television show received 277 nominations and 87 awards in its 156 episodes over 7 seasons. Quite simply, it is extremely well written. The dialogue, characters, and themes make the series a must re-watch every summer in my home.
One of the themes came back to me recently. There is an episode where the President’s staff are grappling with the two sides of the President, to everyone’s frustration and disappointment. It’s painfully obvious these highly talented, dedicated, and passionate individuals desperately want a clear target in order to do the work they have sworn to do for the man, and country, to whom they are committed.
The only thing getting in their way at this point is the President himself.
On the back of a napkin, no less, the Chief of Staff scrawls the solution and it’s nothing short of sheer poetry: Let Bartlett Be Bartlett.
Simple. Direct. Clear.
One could also say it’s a call to action …
Here’s the thing: As patients we sometimes get carried along with our disease, the healthcare system, the drama of our daily lives. Between trying to figure out what’s going on, accepting it, and dealing with it we lose track of why we are doing what we are doing. Is it any wonder those around us are equally befuddled?
Which brings me to my question: What are we doing as patients?
We need to give clear instructions, directions, and imperatives as to what we want, what we need and what we will accept; lest we be as lost as Bartlett.
Where on earth does one start?
I like to look at things on a spectrum. So, imagine one extreme is table stakes or “not even worth playing unless this is part of the deal” and at the other extreme is not in your wildest dreams. It’s kind of like imagining the best and worst possible outcomes. That makes everything in between up for grabs.
Simply by virtue of knowing what you want, articulating it clearly, and holding firm with a ruthless conviction, we will give direction to the talented, dedicated, and passionate folks around us desperately trying to help us.
We don’t have to know everything; that includes how to manage all aspects of our disease. Really, that’s what the people around us are looking to help us do. Just like Bartlett, when you’re surrounded by good people you really just have to point the way …
We aren’t always going to be clear … sometimes we need new language, but listen when I tell you I want to know all options … not just the ones you think I want to hear.
We aren’t always going to be certain … sometimes we need a little support, but see me for the capable person I am … not just the patient that needs your help.
We aren’t always going to be able to face it … sometimes we need a day off, but allow me the tools to manage my health, my pain, my life in a manner of my choosing.
We must keep learning new ways to get our point across, keep our circle of care strong, and give ourselves time out. But, then, we need to get our ass back in the game, shout loudly “look out world, here I come!” Yes, I am a patient. I will not apologize for what I am, what I want, what I need.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s this: When you know what you want, just about anything is possible. It matters less what it is you want and more that you figure it out and then tell those around you. Only then can you say …
Let Me Be Me.