In(ter)dependence Day


As a child, I was fascinated and repelled by the game Mousetrap … the outcome so dependent on every little piece working perfectly in and of itself, and in concert with all the other little pieces.

In my collegiate days, dependence used to be a dirty word. I hated relying on others, and delegation was as painful as a root canal. If I had to work on a group project, I always took the assignment that required the least amount of collaboration. Some of my favorite words included Autonomy, Independence, Self-sufficiency and Individualism.

However, I’ve done a lot in the intervening decade, and the shift that seems so sharp in comparison, has been gradual in retrospect. As I’ve struggled with illness, rejoiced in health, furthered my career, developed talents, traveled the world, struggled with loneliness, deepened friendships, endured singles wards, returned to family wards and come to grips with grey religious areas, I’ve come to see each day as a celebration of Interdependence.

Simply put, I’ve come to realize that interconnectedness is an essential part of life.

Perhaps the easiest way to illustrate this is by relating it to my career. I work as a registered nurse within the specialty of Pediatric Intensive Care. That’s right, I save children’s lives. And if it sounds like bragging, well, it is. I am the face that the patients and families see. The one who offers comfort and relief. The one who does the assessments and treatments. The one who gives all the medications and draws all the blood. The one who’s most readily available to answer questions. The one who advocates for them, and through whom they interface with the rest of the hospital.

However, I cannot do this alone. I rely on the strengths of a hundred other people within my unit and the hospital at large. I rely on my fellow nurses to give me auxiliary support, whether my patient is crashing, or I just need a hand with a tricky procedure. I rely on doctors of innumerable specialties to diagnose and prescribe treatments. I rely on the housekeeping staff to keep the unit clean and functional. Respiratory, occupational, speech, physical, speech and play therapists; social workers; dieticians; secretaries; insurance billers; fund raisers; hospital administrators; translators; security guards; researchers; etc etc … I need them all, and they need me.

Paradoxically, this interconnectedness requires more from me than just self-sufficiency. It requires that I know myself implicitly … my limitations and strengths, that I turn the former into the latter, and that I give generously of my dower. Our individual responsibility for humanity is awesome.

So, I’m taking more responsibility little by little. I was just called (well, actually I petitioned for it, but let’s not split hairs) as RS pianist. This means that I have to actually attend RS. And as the weeks go by, I find that I need these women around me … feminists, traditionalists, young, old, singletons, marrieds, childless women, mothers, women who have been divorced, stay-at-home moms, career women, even the crazy woman who wears her SAG pin every week. They enrich my life … and this coming from a woman who couldn’t stand Homemak~ … err Enrichment.

Last week I was set apart by a member of the bishopric who I’ve never conversed with, and who barely knows my name. And yet, as he set me apart, with phrases that he no doubt uses in a variety of settings-apart, I was incredibly moved. I was blessed with the ability and responsibility to develop my talents, and that sisters would be strengthened and draw closer to god through my efforts. On the surface, it seems so pat and prosaic, but it struck a chord that continues to resound.

So yes, I am part of a complicated mechanism … not to trap souls, but to vault them to their highest potential. I may not perform my part perfectly at all times, but with our combined efforts, we will accomplish marvelous things.

Dora lives in sunny Los Angeles. She works as a PICU RN, and spends the rest of her time passionately involved in lindy and blues dancing, literature, finding common ground, travelling and experimenting with new hobbies. Dora has been fascinated with feminism and the Exponent II since the southern California roundtable discussion and looks forward to being a contributor here.

Jana

Jana is university administrator and History professor. Her soloblog is http://janaremy.com/pilgrimsteps/

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  1. Mike says:

    Dora–

    Great post! I also think there’s something deep and awe-inspiring about the interconnectedness of life at its various levels.

    And go ahead and brag about saving lives. My sister is a nurse, too, and a couple years ago at a family gathering, we spontaneously went around the room describing the things we hate about our jobs. My brother and I described the painful process of publishing in academia, another sister talked about dealing with unkind clients, and so on, until we got to my nurse sister who described how she, first, had to be with a couple old, smelly, unclean veterans (she works at a VA hospital) during their last breaths because they didn’t have any family and, second, then had to dispose of the remains. This gave me a whole new understanding of and appreciation of my sister.

  2. Caroline says:

    Dora,
    This is a beautiful post.

    Your insights about the interconnectedness of life resonate with me. It has only been in the last few years that I’ve come to realize just how interdependent we all are in this world.

    A few years ago, I blithely lived my life, shopping wherever I wanted, eating whatever I wanted, seldom recycling, etc. I lived a life of convenience to suit primarily myself. But I’ve been evolving, thankfully. I’ve come to understand that almost every decision I make in some way affects someone or something else.

    Now I try to be conscious of this as I live my life. I try not to be as materialistic and definitely try not to patronize mega-stores that exploit. I still eat meat sometimes, but I do so now realizing that beautiful, wonderful creatures lived awful lives and died for this. I now understand that people are starving all over the world, and I care in ways I never did before. I just didn’t get the interconnectedness of us all with each other, the earth, and the animals.

    I’m glad for my new understanding but it’s hard too. It’s unbearable sometimes to really think about all the suffering that goes on in the world, while I am so privileged.

    Sorry, I took your inspiring post down a depressing track…

  3. John says:

    Thanks for an insightful post, Dora. I’ve been trying to work on the interdependence for the past few years now (inspired mainly by Buddhist teachings, of which the “interconnectedness of all beings” is an important part), and it’s good to know that you’ve had to make the transition yourself. Luckily, I’ll get to talk to you more about this tonight!

  4. EmilyCC says:

    This is lovely, Dora. Thank you!

    I like, Caroline, can feel overwhelmed about my interconnectedness with the world (I consume too much, I don’t give enough back, etc). So, I want to focus on what you said about feeling interconnected with Relief Society.

    I think this feeling of interconnectedness is one of the things I appreciate most about the Church. As I work in my church callings, I come to rely on and love people who think very differently than I do in terms of politics, gender roles, even sometimes, gospel principles.

  5. Mike says:

    Questions for Dora:

    You describe how you’ve experienced interconnectedness as a nurse, but do you think you would have learned the same lessons if you weren’t a nurse? Do you think dealing with life, illness, pain, and death brings makes the interconnectedness more salient?

  6. Eve says:

    Very nice, Dora. I find over and over that there are things I simply can’t do alone. In spite of my disinclination to vulnerability, I’m forced to confront my own limits and failings and ask for help. It’s painful, humbling, and liberating to abandon myself to the strengths of others, as I’ve heard it put.

  7. Dora says:

    Oooh … good questions from everyone!

    For caroline and emilycc ~
    As Latter-day Saints, we covenant to donate our time, talents, and whatever the Lord has blessed us with to the building up of the Kingdom of God. What a tremendous responsibility. I often feel overwhelmed and inadequate when I contemplate the whole of it. I deal with it by breaking the responsibility down into manageable bits. I didn’t ask to be RS president (nor will I ever ask for this … ever), but I did ask to be the pianist. I don’t demand to be a core charge nurse, but I do relief charge about once every six weeks. I don’t propose marriage to every man I meet, but try to be open-minded about who I date. I can’t donate large sums of money to charities, but I give what I can. I start with the little pieces and expand from there.

    For john ~
    Interconnectedness with you and jana is like breathing … so easy and natural. Attempting interconnectedness with inflexible and selfish people makes me want to pull THEIR hair out (mine is just too fantastic to mess with). Then again, Japanese buddha’s are bald …

    And lastly, for mike ~
    Yes, I think that my career has helped impell me toward seeking interconnectedness with others. However, I do not think that it has been the most important factor …especially as I want tons of interconnectedness, and there is a severe nursing shortage right now.

    As an inexorable part of mortality, we are all subject to trials which bring us varying degrees of suffering. Pain and suffering are so subjective. What I may consider incredibly wrenching, you may be able to handle without flinching, or vice versa.And while I would never wish his experiences on another person, I do think that every person must come to a Viktor Frankl-type moment where we must decide how we are going to deal with our lives. In a certain matter of speaking, it’s not so much *what* the trial is, as *how* we work through it. Do we become a Victim, or a Victor?

    The victory of a trial overcome is magnified when it impells us to reach out to others. We are all pilgrims on the journey of mortality; stopping to aid another does not compromise our journey, but is one of our primary missions.

  8. Dora says:

    “painful, humbling, and liberating” … almost like slipping through the neck of an hour glass, or transitioning from L’Inferno to Paradiso. Thanks eve.

  9. amelia says:

    dora, i really loved this post. i particularly loved the part about finding a place in the community of relief society and the church at large. this is something i have often struggled with. i’ve even occasionally left a church meeting because whoever was speaking was saying something that struck me as so wrong i could not continue to hear it without my anxiety levels sky-rocketing.

    but that’s begun changing. i think in large part it’s changed for me because i took the time to look around me and recognize the realities of the people who i had been willing to dismiss as other than me–as irredeemably different than me. they are different. in ways that sometimes bother me. but they are also good, beautiful people who contribute to making the world and society i live in beautiful.

    one time i went to a baby shower and had the experience i thought i would–namely a bunch of young married women gushing about their babies and husbands and older married women presiding in their matronly way. and i couldn’t wait to get out of there. but i had offered to stay to help clean up, so i was stuck. fortunately. as i sat back and observed these women, i began to see aspects of their lives and personalities my narrow understanding of their place in the world hadn’t allowed me to recognize.

    i think there is strength in seeing others with generosity. in refusing to stop at a recognition of the ways in which our world and its people may be flawed, and moving beyond it to a recognition of the ways in which we need them and an understanding of their goodnesses.

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