Word Medicine

Writing and Healing: exploring the art of healing and the healing of art

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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