Blue Christmas

sad christmas

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas for those who have a light heart and jolly spirit… for others, it seems like work to wear a smile and “go through the motions” that most people expect during the holidays. This year everything feels different. It feels empty to me. I lost my Dad three months and 21 days ago and I have missed him every single day since. My Dad REALLY loved Christmas. Each year he tried to out-do the previous year. He would always leave a voice mail message on my daughter’s cell phone (even at the age of 24!) saying “Ho Ho Ho! Have you been a good girl this year Shea bird? Santa Claus is watching!”… and always with the warning that “if you’re not good, you’ll get coal in your stocking!” Shea still has last Christmas’ message from my Dad, her Pop-Pop, saved on her phone. It makes us laugh and cry at the same time.

I truly believe that my father knew that last year would be his last Christmas. He asked each one of us to think about something special that we wanted. Instinctually I knew that he was “preparing” and wanted his last gift to be memorable and to always serve as a visible reminder that he loved us (more) and was always with us, even when he could no longer be. I chose a pair of earrings which I have worn every day since he gave them to me last Christmas Eve. I will treasure them always; they are a reminder of a Christmas past that will never, ever be the same.

As for this Christmas…I just want it to be over. It hurts too much. Thanksgiving was difficult…but Christmas is much harder. I recently found a Christmas ornament that symbolizes the loss of a loved one and says that this year “they will be spending Christmas with Jesus”. Did it help? No. It just made me cry.

I am receiving beautiful Christmas cards in the mail and I am struggling reading them all. I can’t seem to sit down and write out my own greeting cards. I am still grieving. I hope everyone understands.

This year, I am working on Christmas Day. It is ok though. The distraction will be good and I will not be able to withdraw into my own thoughts or sadness. It is a gift to be able to serve others and have a purpose. I will be spending the day with amazing people who selflessly work in a profession that no matter how much you give of yourself, you always receive more in return. The good thing about perspective is that it allows you to appreciate what you have, instead of what you don’t.

I know that I am not alone in my sadness this year. My friend Susan shared this song with me today and it expresses everything that I am feeling… everything that I was trying to say in my blog, but stumbled along the way with broken thoughts and memories. Susan knows the pain because she just lost her father yesterday… another friend just lost his beloved service dog last week… The thing about grief is that it is so overwhelmingly painful by itself, but going through it during a time that is supposed to be joyous and hopeful makes the sadness feel even more profound and lonely.

Merry Christmas in Heaven Dad. I miss you.

Conflict and Honesty

I’ve attended several professional seminars throughout my career that have discussed how to manage conflict in our professional roles, and while they had great strategies to use (I’ve tried them all!), I’ve learned through personal experience that most conflict is typically not about the current event or issue that seems to have caused the argument, rather it is about (mis)communication and (lack of) trust. Communication can be tricky, especially if people are not comfortable with being vulnerable and open to hearing your version of the truth, which many people are not. I use the term “your truth” because truth can be relative. My truth speaks to who I am; my core values and worldview, while someone else’s truth may be completely different. It is not always a “right” or “wrong” situation. Speaking your truth can sometimes come across as being confrontational, and can make some people even more angry. I have felt this way also, but now that I’ve gotten older and much more experienced with pissing people off, and being pissed off in return, I find that speaking my truth can be very freeing. It (often) relieves the burden of holding onto pain, anger, and resentment, which over time, can be exhausting. However, if you have the ability and opportunity to just say what needs to be said, it can open up a dialog about what is (really) bothering you, and preventing you from moving forward.

conflict

Full disclosure: I try to approach conflict with honesty and vulnerability but it doesn’t always go well. Sometimes the situation completely backfires, and things end up worse than when they started, regardless of my intentions to make things better. The fact is, we each have our own version of the truth, and talking openly about it is a good first step to having closure and resolving conflict. Life is too short to hold onto grudges. In the end, we are only responsible for our own action, or inaction. The important thing is that you tried… if you care at all, you must try. Being honest with others, in a sincere, thoughtful, and nonjudgemental way, can bridge the communication gap, and strengthen the friendship/relationship. If the end result is that you “agree to disagree”, I consider it a win-win.

truth and lies

Starting over, again

Starting over in a new job is not easy. With each job comes new staff and colleagues (or what I like to call future friends!), new policies & procedures, and new rules and responsibilities. Earning trust and respect from those in a new organization is critical to your success in your role, and ultimate job satisfaction. You have to “prove yourself” to those who don’t know you and wonder about your level of competence and skills. Merely saying that you have been a nurse for close to 30 years is not enough; you have to show them you are worthy and that you know your stuff. You look at yourself in the mirror of the restroom to make sure that you don’t have dog hair on your black pants or food in your teeth, and you silently give yourself a pep talk, “you got this!” before you walk into the crowded auditorium.

1200-353415-new-beginning-quotes

During the excruciatingly long week of hospital orientation, I sit in a room full of young nurses, most of whom are just beginning their careers, and I feel so old. I don’t have much in common with them, but eventually we begin to talk about what brought us “here”. We all feel grateful for the opportunity to work in such a wonderful children’s hospital, so that is the common denominator, and where the glimmer of hope and excitement begin. We are all on our own individual journeys and yet we ended up together in this room…starting over, again.

grateful

I recently received a beautiful book, The Wisdom of Sundays (Winfrey, 2017), from my friend Sandra, that I haven’t been able to put down. The book has brought comfort to me during what has been a very difficult year of loss. In one of the chapters Oprah talks about grace and gratitude, and she points out that gratitude opens up a new channel within oneself where blessings can be more clearly recognized. Winfrey (2017) quotes Eckhart Tolle, “If the only prayer you say in your entire life is thank you, that will be enough”. I’ve experienced many changes in my personal life and career; for better, and for worse. With every choice I have made, I have learned something from it; sometimes that lesson is filled with sadness or regret, but mostly it is filled with gratitude and thanks.

Change can be difficult and scary, but it is inevitable; one cannot evolve or grow without it. Making changes and starting over in our professional lives can be even more precarious…especially as I am inching closer to my retirement. Fortunately, I am not afraid of change, it gives me hope that the best is yet to come.

 

Reference

Winfrey, O. (2017). The wisdom of sundays. New York, NY: Flatiron Books

Saying Good-bye

I have been a nurse for over 28 years, and in that time I have made many amazing friends and memories. You tend to form close bonds with those that share common experiences… good or bad. We remember our favorite and least favorite nurses to work with, the best and worst docs, and the patients who remind us why we continue to do what we do. We mostly remember the best and worst shifts, and share stories that make us laugh, cry, or just shake our head in disbelief that that just happened. But eventually, many of us move on, and decide to leave jobs that are no longer fulfilling, or the organizational leadership changes into something that you can’t support, or the decision to leave is made for you, or you decide to be brave and try something else, or you/your significant other relocate, or you accept an exciting career opportunity in a different unit or organization… or, we leave so that we can be closer to home, and be more available to help our family during a tough time… or a combination of the above… and we are faced with saying good-bye.

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves“- Viktor E. Frankl

Saying good-bye is hard. I’m terrible at it. It is so final, and the thought of losing one more person in my life that has become important to me, especially after losing my father recently, makes it even harder. Sure, we say we will stay in touch, and see each other soon, and stay connected on social media… but it’s just not the same. It is a loss, and loss is painful.

I have made lifelong friends in all of my jobs… they are the best of the best… but yesterday I had to say good-bye to some amazing people that I have grown to love in only 3 short years. I was leaving for all the right reasons, and I was prepared to say good-bye; I had been gradually talking about my need to leave my job for a few weeks; saying it out loud to reinforce to myself that it was “for the best”… but that last day was the worst. I cried. A lot. It was embarrassing. No one died, and yet today, I am in mourning. I don’t feel sad about leaving the place, or the job itself (it was a very stressful environment and a helluva commute to be honest); I am sad about leaving the amazing people that I worked with and got to know on a deeply personal level. They are some of the hardest working people I know. It is not easy to work in a huge Children’s Hospital in NYC. It’s a tough place that is indisputable proof of Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” theory; only those who are able to adapt to an environment, and struggle for existence, can survive and succeed. If only I could transport these amazing people to my new job, close to home, I would do so in an instant. But it’s not possible, and it’s not about me.

I will always have this piece of my heart that smiles whenever I think about you.

GWB

When Words Become Barriers to Effective Communication

I am a person of few words…most of the time.  It’s just who I am. I tend to hold things in because I have been that person who can easily “put my foot in my mouth” and say the wrong thing. I have also been known to just say what I’m thinking… or not say anything at all and bite my tongue. Admittedly, when someone else is speaking, I have been known to cut the other person off, mid-sentence, because I feel compelled to add to the conversation. Whether it is coming from a sense of urgency to share information relative to the topic, or because if I don’t say it at that moment, I will lose the thought entirely and it will escape my memory. Nevertheless, it is rude, and I reprimand myself every time. I also end up regretting some of the things that I have said, or wish that I had said it differently. It is a constant internal struggle and I remind myself of the quote from Mark Twain “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt“.

I don’t like to talk on the phone; I would much rather text than talk. I have found my most comfortable and confident voice with the written word as it allows me the opportunity to think about what I want to say, and how to say it, in a more purposeful, thoughtful manner.  One would think that my lack of verbal skills would make me a great listener, but sadly that is not true either. If I am talking to someone and they start telling me a story, but the story has a backstory, which then starts to drift off topic onto another story, you’ve completely lost me; my eyes glaze over, my mind starts to wander.  I start thinking “what is the point to this story?”, “is there an ending any time soon”? Just please cut to the chase and get to the bottom line.

bored-cat_work-600x384

Of course I don’t say those words out loud, that would mean that I would have to talk and be faced with a verbal confrontation, which would take too much time and energy.  I know a few people like this, and I try very hard to will myself to pay attention to what they are trying to say. It’s not like I have a short attention span or anything like that, just when it comes to long stories, or long hand-off reports, my mind drifts.  I start going through my list of things-to-do in my mind and desperately search for a quick, but polite, way out of the conversation. Honestly, it is something that I wish I could change about myself…well, one of the things. I envy those who are quick-witted and can talk to anyone, or speak in front of large groups of people, in a calm, competent manner.

Nurses are often placed in situations when we are speaking with our patients and their families and we can’t seem to get out of the room. We start to wonder if one of our colleagues will notice that we are MIA and send out a search and rescue party.  And we all know that nurse who gives such detail-oriented, never-ending shift reports that you wonder why you need to know what your patient had for breakfast last week. Is this information relevant to my plan of care for the day? Of course I’m not talking about report for a critical patient who has a lot going on; I’m referring to those who feel it is important to tell me every single detail about the patient and his/her family. I am on a “need to know” basis during change of shift and I have to get report on several patients, or sometimes on the entire floor. Please just tell me the highlights. If I need more information, I know where to look, or I will ask. This is another reason why I advocate for bedside hand-off shift report, with the most important things discussed at the bedside: IVF, lines, dressings, VS, meds, etc. It also gives me an opportunity to “eyeball” the patient so I can quickly assess how they are, or if they are in pain or distress. An experienced nurse can gain a lot of information about their patient just by looking at, and talking to him/her. That first quick assessment is literally half of my initial shift documentation. I have 12+ hours to learn more…sometimes much more than I want to know.

In conclusion, use your words responsibly. Words can be a powerful tool for effective communication and can bring people together. They can also be a way to build barriers and destroy relationships. In my experience, words that are said using kindness, compassion, and truth are always the right ones to say out loud.

Talk-less

Last Time for Everything

Another one of my articles was published and featured on Allnurses.com.

This article was inspired by the Brad Paisley song, “Last Time for Everything“. Nursing gives us a firsthand view of how quickly a life can be taken away. We all experience many “firsts” and “lasts” in our lifetime unfortunately we rarely recognize them until it’s too late.

Please click on the link, or copy and paste it to your browser if you would like to read it.

Thank you!

last timehttp://allnurses.com/general-nursing-discussion/last-time-for-1132195.html#.WebPJt2icLs.link