I recently heard an interview on NPR about the author Yusef Salaam that wrote a book called Better, Not Bitter, and the title just blew my mind. I had to repeat it a few times in my head. Better — not bitter.
It made me think of everything that happens to us and how we all have a choice to turn any small interaction up to every major trauma into an opportunity of growth or into a petri dish of negativity.
Trauma does not have to define us, but we can grow and become a better version, not a bitter version of ourselves.
COVID has basically amplified everything in our lives. If you were OCD, COVID just made you OCD on steroids. If you had an inclination for conspiracy theories, these just gave you fuel for months.
For me, my OCD went into overdrive. Other physicians wore basically a thong for a face mask. I went full combat style with N95, double mask, goggles, face shield, scrub cap, scrubs, long sleeves, and extra clothes under my scrubs to change out of in the car. I mean, the mental picture, if you have one now, is no joke. Inevitably, it is hard to hear me as a patient.
Instead of yelling at the patients, I decided to buy an amplifier headset to add to the madness. It throws patients off a bit, who are already overwhelmed with the PPE excess, but I did not want to yell at them, so I bought it so they could hear me.
One day, my severely hearing-impaired 87-year-old patient came to see me. Pre-COVID, he could never hear me, and during amplifier-COVID times was no different. I had to ask my nurse to yell the entire conversation to his ear because, at that time, no family was allowed in rooms.
One of the supervising nurses, who was upset at me for other reasons, decided to complain to HR and the regional medical director and stated patients could not hear me, which was a big issue that clearly needed to be addressed by the administration.
I, therefore, got a call from the chief of my department, asking me what mask I was wearing or what was going on because there had been complaints patients could not hear me.
The call was mind-boggling and a huge waste of time, but I just let it be, because I knew where the actual complaint was coming from. Not from my lovely 87-year-old patient but from a nurse that was threatened by me. Likely, for all the reasons women attack instead of uplift other women.
I decided, instead of becoming bitter, to joke with every patient about my outfit to lighten the mood. I usually tell them; my amplifier is also used to do Zumba at the end of day. We all laugh and move to more important issues, like their enlarged prostate.
I started to joke with my staff about my ridiculous amplifier, and my scheduler told me, “I would do Zumba with you.” So, I decided to do it that day. To use my absurd amplifier, turn on Shakira’s “Bicicleta” song on YouTube and dance with my nurses in the break room at the end of the day.
We ended up doing two, not one song that day, and we all laughed, bonded, and had a great time at the end of a long clinic day. We have now started what I termed “7 minutes of joy” where we dance two songs in the patient’s waiting room or at the end of either my clinic or operating room day. We come together for 7 minutes and experience joy. We look forward to it every week, and we have been doing this for months.
Music heals. Movement heals.
If you have ever heard the song Macarena, where you put your hands on your elbows, hips, head and do a turn at the end; the lyrics state, “Dale a tu cuerpo alegría Macarena, que tu cuerpo es pa’ darle alegria y cosa buena.” It basically states that you need to give your body happiness, Macarena, that the purpose of your body is to give it happiness (by giving it movement) and good things.
There is a magnitude of research about the role of movement, dancing, and the power it has for healing. Dance therapy is based on this research. My friend Dr. Niraj Mehta, a radiation oncologist in Miami, has been doing this for years. Starting his vision of healing called, “Making Moves Universal,” where he started a program for his cancer patients in his office, where he incorporates movement into his healing. He does free workshops, classes and events. Helping people move into a state of being that enhances healing and sustains vitality. He is living it, breathing it, being it.
Have you seen kids run and play tag and laugh while they are chased? Or have you ever seen kids run and be full of anger while they run? If you have seen my kids, whether they are running and playing tag or running away trying to escape bath time, all you can hear down the hall is boisterous giggles and laughter.
Have you ever met a depressed runner? I have not. Movement is happiness.
If you think about physical therapy and its purpose, you will see it clearly as well.
You went skiing, broke your arm, and now you go to physical therapy to restore what is hurting and broken: movement is healing.
If you do not move, you will continue to be broken. Whether it is physical movement or actions of what you need to do in your life to make a change. It likely starts with your mindset but requires movement to change and heal.
Choose healing and happiness.
Become an ambassador of movement for you and others.
It will transform you.
Diana Londoño is a urologist and can be reached at her self-titled site, Dr. Diana Londono, on Twitter @DianaLondonoMD, and on her blog. She is one of the 10 percent of U.S. urologists who are women, and 0.5 percent who are Latina and female.
Image credit: Shutterstock.com