I know that this doesn’t just apply to nurses, but this was told to me in the setting of a hospital. I realized how appropriate it was in my profession, and in other aspects of my life. I know there are many who can relate to this, so this is my way of saying, you’re not alone. I am the clown too.
I am a nurse. Anyone who is a nurse, knows a nurse, or in general deals with difficult humans will know the kind of day I was having. So basically everyone. It was a struggle day. One of several weeks in a row of struggling.
A patient’s family member told me a joke. I had been talking on and off with this man, problem solving, and in general giving emotional support to him the majority of my shift. Answering the unanswerable questions: “When will they get better? Is this permanent? Why haven’t the medications started helping yet? How did this happen?” Just the usual myriad of questions that one can never answer with anything but a long drawn out, around the bush, down the street, and across the pond way of saying “I don’t know.” It only happens several times a day.
So I am coming back from eating dinner, and I stop to talk to the family member about him coordinating with the friends and family who are calling wanting to be told about the patient’s condition. Night shift told me they thought the patient didn’t have any family. Well I had friends and family coming out of my ears that day. All with questions I wasn’t allowed to answer without permission from someone who couldn’t give it.
So the family member and I are talking, and we were laughing a little bit about the different things you find humor in a random conversation. And he says “Hang on one joke before we go: A man goes to a doctor and says ‘Hey doc I’m really sad and depressed. What can I do about it?’ The doctor says ‘Ya know what, you should go downtown. There’s this clown that could make anybody laugh. He’ll cheer you up, and make you smile, and you’ll feel better in no time.’ The guy says to the doctor, ‘Doc, I am the clown.’”
I must admit, I fake laughed at that joke. Mostly I was confused as to why it was funny, or even an appropriate joke for the conversation we were having. But I also realized it was too accurate. How many of us out there wear a smile all the time and are hurting so much inside. It’s ludicrous really, scary, like a clown to have a smile painted on when there so much hurting inside.
Let me clarify something. I smile all the time. And yes, more often than not, I am not even aware that the smile is still stuck on my face. I prefer it that way. There is nothing worse than seeing a person with resting-female-dog-face when you, or your family member, are in the hospital sick. I’m there to make people feel better, and nothing works as well as a smile. So I try to keep my smile on.
However, sometimes I find people don’t know about my dark side. The one that is anxious all the time that I’ll mess up and accidentally kill someone. The side of me who just wants to find somewhere to put down roots. The part of me who realizes I crave routine because I have none. The part of me that is perpetually lonely.The part of me that as soon as I get home will put on something mind numbing. No one ever suspects that of me. Not very often anyway.
So as a nurse that perpetually tells people who are hurt to seek care, I had to realize that I needed to take my own advice. I needed to wash off the smile and take a hard look in the mirror. I had to realize my actual source of joy and spend long hours with Him. Because after all, clowns are scary, and does anybody actually like them? So find out why you’re smiling. Make it into a real smile. Because the world needs more real smiles.