Word Medicine

Writing and Healing

Has My Ship Come In? March 31, 2011

Below is a piece a participant in my writing workshop wrote.  It has a lot to say about the difficulties of working in healthcare, and about how a good metaphor can be a bridge to opening up understanding.

I always remember hearing the phrase,  “Has your ship come in?” or  “Maybe your ship will come in”  all meaning some time when your good fortune arrives.

I was sitting in a place at my work, a spot that I go to whenever I can because it has a huge window facing the western sky.  In a large multi-storied hospital, a window like that , where I can sit and work for a bit is at a premium.  So, one day I was sitting there working and looking out at the sky.  People were in and out then a nurse sat down beside me.  She is one who is usually a bit gruff, straight-faced and a no-nonsense woman, friendly but not especially warm.  You just know she means business, all business.  And really, nurses these days have to be all business.  There’s just not much time for anything else.  Complete the task and move on to the next one.  Have a discussion about your patient being homeless  or unable to buy their medicines as you go down the hall to the next task or standing at the medicine cabinet or over lunch.  You know, that half hour quiet time you’re supposed to have in a 12 hour day.  No time for teasing or joking or even breathing.

So, this nurse, the no-nonsense one, sat down beside me and I commented on liking to sit there because of the view.  I went on to say how beautiful the clouds were and how some even looked silver-lined.   She immediately said “I want that cloud, the silver–lined one.”   I quipped back, “Is that your cloud coming in?”  making metaphorical reference to the ship of good fortune coming into her port,  tying up to her dock, anchored, all her’s.   She laughed out loud and said , yes, she thought it was her cloud coming in.  It was unexpected, her laughter, and I felt the shift in our exchange.   I felt her heart open.   When I came around to face her , I found a blazing smile and her head cocked to one side as if in question of what had just happened.  I smiled back and held her gaze to let her know I’d  felt it too.

Each time, now,  that I see her, her openness remains.   I sometimes feel a little hesitation but then she opens again,  gives me a smile and looks into my eyes.  I felt then and now with each encounter as if my ship or silver-lined cloud has come in , also.   I am also reminded in difficult encounters with others how little it can take to shift the feeling, make the connection and travel on that ocean liner to a different place.  Cruise ship, skiff, river canoe, pontoon boat, any boat will do.  It’s the water, it’s the flow, it’s the clouds floating by.                                                                                                                                                                           Sandra Scott  RN

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2 Responses to “Has My Ship Come In?”

  1. PJ Says:

    Hi Sandra….though the emotion of believing that a cloud with a silver lining is coming your way is touching, the reality for many people is that it never comes. Mainly because what they are desiring really is only pie in the sky dreams…..I am all for stirring passion in people, but if we look at the origin of “your ship coming in”, it was during the time when merchants would send our ships empty, and instruct an agent to purchase a lot of goods in foreign countries. Months later, when the ship(s) came in, they would be wealthy men. But the wealth was a consequence of the faith to send out the ship in the first place. Without an action to attract that “ship of fortune”, nothing is going to happen. To dream about something good happening to you is not going to make it happen. We need to invest in a dream and make the necessary sacrifice to stimulate a change in our futures.

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  2. sandra scott Says:

    I could not agree with you more. Dreaming is a start but a complete life it does not make. It is only the starting place. We all make our own silver linings. Some are not what we thought, while others are more than we ever imagined.
    The world seems full of a lot of busy work that gets us nowhere except deeper into confusion. I believe the “action” in this piece is the slow and sometimes arduous trek of sounding the depths, like ships must do sometimes to stay out of hazardous shallow waters. When I sound the depths of other human beings and find deep harbor, even briefly, it is great wealth I have discovered. I lament the loss of depth in medicine and see it on the faces of my coworkers daily as they go about their tasks. It is unfortunate spiritual harbor has yet to be fully valued. Thanks so much for your comment. I appreciate the chance to respond. SS

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