In a previous life (not a past life), I worked as an instructor for lifeguards. Part of this job was the teaching and certifying of potential candidates in CPR, and before we had AEDs (automatic external defibrillators – they make CPR so much easier) we taught the manual process. This required much emphasis of proper hand position because (1) CPR is very likely to result in broken bones (ribs, usually) if it is done correctly, and (2) the one bone you do not want to break during CPR is the xiphoid process.
For those who don’t know, the xiphoid process is this little extension at the bottom of the sternum that starts out as cartilage but, between ages 15 and 30, turns to bony tissue. Here’s a diagram:
The problem with the xiphoid process and CPR is that incorrect hand positioning can break it off the sternum…and then you have this chunk of bone floating loosely inside the body and all sorts of wonderfully horrible things can happen. It’s not something you want to do to someone, nor is it something you want to have yourself. So, with CPR, caution is paramount.
The fact that caution is so important in something I used to teach on a routine basis, and something I’ve (unfortunately) had to do for people more than once actually made it easier for me to embrace the precision and caution needed for my religious work for several of my gods. Their work involves so much shaking up and core-wrenching that it has become impossible for me to to approach it without making sure I understand exactly what I’m supposed to do and what the outcome is likely to be, and while doing it I aim to be meticulous. My gods approve of this – anything worth doing is, after all, worth doing well.
On the other hand, I’m a lot less likely to jump when told to – hell, I ended up in a religious cul-de-sac for quite some time because I wasn’t able to trust the outcome of what I was being asked to do. Even when I gave in, I worried about the work for two months prior to the start date I’d accepted…and I still worry about it now. This is not approved worrying, and although so far I’ve gotten nothing but responses of amusement and affectionate exasperation when I hedge and try to delay, I know that a day is coming when I’m going to be told to take my finger out and do X already.
The more I think about this, the more I wonder if there’s a way to break whatever religious xiphoid process I still have. If I break it, detach it from the rest of my religious self, then I won’t have to be as cautious because it will be done. And unlike breaking the physical one, which has all kinds of awful consequences, breaking the religious one could mean being free. Free, finally, to take the leaps I need to take without checking to see what I’ll land on.
Free to do. Free to be.