Bandwidth

The energy or mental capacity required to deal with a situation

Recently, a friend asked if I continue to attend the meetings and activities of political action groups. After pondering my answer, I offered that I feel as though I have to keep showing up, regardless of how seemingly daunting some issues may be. My friend just shook her head. She volunteered that she simply “doesn’t have the bandwidth” for those activities. I totally get that. I have experienced the overwhelming frustration at how dismally ineffective my efforts have been at making any meaningful change. My bandwidth is close to being non-existent on some days, too.

Every Monday, I go to the big social event of my week – a postcard writing group via a video call. I am a newcomer to this sort of endeavor and, I must admit, look forward to each “meeting” with the enthusiasm of a dog that has been offered a delicious treat.

My fellow group members are smart, passionate, and energetic in their endeavors to make positive changes in the world. They fiercely and tirelessly raise their voices to advocate for those who cannot speak. This week, toward the end of the meeting, I felt a darkness roll in over the group. The feeling of despair was palpable.

Oh, no, I thought to myself. These people are so strong and determined. They are warriors engaged in critical battles. Whatever is causing them to wobble?  The words discouraged, pointless, and hopeless ran through the conversation. No, this can’t be right, I thought. Right before my eyes, the bandwidth of the group was growing smaller and smaller.

As I listened, I searched desperately for some bit of solace or comfort for this valiant group of postcard warriors. What’s the point of continuing on when it seems that no battle is ever won and no truce ever reached?

And, then, I got it. We have to keep showing up. If there are issues and challenges that are important to us, we have to keep speaking up. Not unlike a metaphorical game of tug-of-war, if we simply put our end of the rope down and walk away, there will be no traction to prevent the rope from flinging wildly in the opposite direction. We have to hold on. By not letting go of what is important to us, there is a bit of counter-traction to balance out the other end of the rope. Progress may be measured not only in inches gained, but also in ground that isn’t lost.

So, what helps me to maintain the bandwidth necessary to continue to speak up for safe healthcare workplaces and advocate for colleagues who have experienced violence? Quite simply, listening to the stories of those who are struggling to heal from episodes of violence in their workplaces.

Last month, I spotted a letter to the editor in our statewide newspaper. The words described a sibling’s grief at the brutal workplace assault of a sister who is a nurse. Not only was the nurse injured, but the assault also resulted in the loss of her unborn baby.

This nurse has value and her story has meaning. I cannot imagine the tragic sequelae resulting from this violent experience. Nor, can I justify the toxic healthcare culture that allows injured workers and their families to be treated so callously.

Reading this gut-wrenching letter increases my diminishing bandwidth. This jolt gives me the strength to, once again, speak up for safe healthcare workplaces.

And, just keep showing up.

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