I recently made a special pilgrimage to New York City, a sparkling spectacle in all its holiday finery, to attend a tribute dinner in honor of Randy Beranek, the immediate past CEO of the National Psoriasis Foundation. Randy recently retired his post after 14 remarkable years of leadership and community building. Also in attendance were several other past board chairs, current and past board members, volunteers, physicians, foundation staff, and loved ones.
Many of us have not gathered since before the pandemic or our years of service on the board. It was a long-overdue and affectionate reunion with friends and colleagues, all of whom have devoted significant swaths of their lives or livelihoods in service to the psoriasis community -- some as patients, some as healers, and some as partners and caregivers. Our psoriatic standpoints are as numerous and luminous as the lights on display at Rockefeller Center. And our communion is all the more brilliant for it.
Immediacy of Empathy
Nervous excitement abided as I descended the stairs to the private dining room, the chill of December clinging to me all the way to the last step. Before I even had a chance to check my coat, I found myself enrobed in a hail of warm and heartfelt greetings. The calming solace of familiarity settled over me and carried me through the evening like a long, cleansing exhale. I was deeply moved by the cordiality of the reception among this chosen family and by the immediacy of the empathy that flows so freely among us even after long stretches apart. It is easy to forget our boundless capacity for compassion until it is mirrored back to us in the looking glass of shared experience held up before us by friends and intimates. This kind of closeness can be breathtaking when we allow it and tremendously healing when we receive it with an open heart.
Living with chronic conditions like psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis can be a lonely, isolating affair. Coping with the steady stream of symptoms, side effects, and emotional fallout requires a certain resolve, surrender, and self-reliance. Maintaining a positive mindset while working through pain, frustration, and sometimes heartbreaking disability is demanding work. Partners, caregivers, physicians, and disease advocates apply their balm by bearing witness and giving of themselves in order that we may feel seen, heard, and acknowledged in our struggles. Sacred work to be certain.
All of us in attendance that evening have been navigating the evolving terrain of psoriatic disease for many years. Some more scathed than others. All of us carrying our own quiet burdens -- chronic and otherwise -- beneath our day-to-day doings. We have stories to share, gifts to give, and grace to muster in honor of one another. Our togetherness is an antidote, and our collective consciousness creates an understanding between us that is both thoughtful and therapeutic. While we can never truly appreciate the fine gradations of color and contour that comprise another troubled heart, the act of simply showing up for each other helps us cross a bridge to wholehearted living.
This community has shown up for me again and again over the years, and this time was no exception. I experienced many moments of tender care over the course of the evening and afterward -- a treatment recommendation, a kind compliment, a lengthy hug, a follow-up email, a funny text, a promise to stay in touch, and heartfelt gratitude, just to name a few. Each one an offering to be cherished and appreciated, each one distinct in its beauty and impact, each one handcrafted and strung together in an exquisite garland of loving kindness that I will always treasure.
Photo Credit: izusek / E+ via Getty Images
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