The Kindness of Others… and by Others, I Mean Nurses

Life is hard; sometimes it can become very overwhelming, and can lead one to a feeling of indifference towards others. We focus so much on our own “stuff”, that we can’t see past it, to recognize when others may be struggling as well. Even those closest to us may not know the many burdens that we carry, because we hide it well, and often suffer in silence. 

This past year in particular, was relentless with tremendous loss, isolation, fear, and anxiety. It was the “perfect storm” for those who usually seek relief from stress by socializing with friends and family. Many of us lost that. I lost that.

We lost hugs. I am a “hugger” and I really missed hugging my friends! We even lost our smiles; they had to be hidden by a facemask at all times to protect us from a deadly virus. But smiles are so important to connect with others! We had to rely on our eyes to communicate our feelings, and that is not always easy to do. And we made mad dashes to the grocery store, dripping in hand sanitizer, hoping that no one around us dare clear their throat with a cough. (God forbid)!

But this is where I start bragging about Nurses. It’s Nurse’s Week, and this year we all deserve a damn vacation! We went to work every day to take care of our patients, just like always, as if there wasn’t a global pandemic that kept many others home from work or school. Our “business” never closed its doors. 

According to Psychology Today (2021), altruism is helping others at some cost to ourselves. It is showing empathy, and purposefully acting in a selfless way to help others. Nurses are the definition of altruistic! During this pandemic, nurses gowned up Every. Single. Day. They wore restrictive and uncomfortable PPE for 13+ hours until their faces were bruised. They washed their hands and uniforms as if hoping they could be sterilized, so as not to pass the virus onto ourselves, or others. Nurses kicked ass this past year, but there was a high cost to be paid. Too many lost their lives in this battle, and on this week of celebrating nurses, please take a moment to remember them, and their families, in our prayers. They were brave and kind and altruistic… and they paid the ultimate sacrifice in this Covid war.

Please take care of yourselves this week, you deserve it! Thank you for your kindness, love, and friendship; thank you for being you!

Happy Nurse’s Week!

Reference:Psychology Today. (2021).  Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com

Birthday Girl

Today is my Birthday! (yay!) It’s not exactly a big milestone, more like a half of one, but the number does frighten me a bit. Honestly, I should get a “do-over” because 2020 was such a dud.

As I reflect on these fifty-five years (holy crap-oly!) that God has given to me, I see an abundant view that is a privilege denied to many. I have much to be grateful for, and I try to remember that, even through the bad days. 

Life, in general, can be complicated… it’s a day-to-day rollercoaster ride of ups and downs, until it’s over… which is something that I’ve actually been thinking about a lot lately; maybe it’s my age, or this past year of such devastating loss due to Covid… and the isolation, of course. The isolation has been really hard. Fortunately, I’ve had so many wonderful friends in my work “pod”, at least that part of my life hasn’t been lonely. Nurses are essential after all, not to mention, “superheroes”!

But I’ve gotten stronger and bolder as I’ve aged; I think that’s how it’s supposed to be. You become less worried about what others think (of you), and focus more on the important things, like being true to oneself. 

I (almost) always say what goes through this busy mind, for better or for worse. That’s why I write in this blog; it may seem silly to some, but it helps me to just sit still and thoughtfully think about what I want to say. It can be very scary to open up and share yourself with others, mostly because people can be so judgmental, but experience has given me confidence, and a feeling of self-worth and courage, that I didn’t have when I was younger.

Thank you for letting me into your lives, listening to me, showing me love and kindness, and laughing with me, and not at me.

Today is my birthday! I will celebrate life, and all that it has given to me, as I imperfectly live it, one day at a time. 

i miss hugs

Covid has taken away so many things from us, in one way or another. As of today, the total deaths in the United States is 424, 909. That number is heartbreaking and astounding. It is also increasing every day.

Today I went to a Viewing of my friend’s mother who passed away from Covid. She was a doctor. She was very special, and she left behind a beautiful family who adored her. Their only comfort is that she is now with her beloved husband in Eternity. Photos, scarves, crochet works of art, made with love, and a million memories of a life well-lived, remain for all that are left behind.

I am a hugger, so it’s hard for me NOT to hug people on a daily basis. Back in the day (pre-Covid), I would be able to hug my friend as a way to express comfort, because sometimes, words just fail. A real hug, a proper hug, that is used when there are no words that can be said to soothe or console. Human touch expresses compassion… I think we are desperately missing that necessary emotion lately.

“Our sorrows and wounds are only healed when we touch them with compassion”. – Buddha

Reality vs. Perception

I haven’t written in awhile…it’s been unintentional. I just couldn’t string words together that could express all that has been on my mind; there isn’t a word for everything I have wanted to say out loud. I mean, 2020 was a helluva year, wasn’t it? We are two weeks into 2021, and I feel like it has basically told 2020 to “hold my beer”! So much has happened in our “United” States, that it will no doubt, be used as an example (of historic magnitude) of Presidential corruption and a violent attempt to overthrow Democracy. I fear for our future if we cannot overcome the aggressive efforts of many (Trump, his crime family, his corrupt lawyers and fellow politicians, QAnon, the KKK and NRA, Fox News, and those supporters who blindly fight for their leader, and whom are unwilling to listen to reason or facts) to override a fair election, and keep Trump in office so they can all fulfill their own maleficent agendas, which no doubt lead to money, power, and control.

I can’t fully wrap my head around the huge political divide in the country. When do facts and reality start to blend in with opinions and perception? Something that one believes to be true, does not make it so. Why can’t we all agree that right is right, and wrong is wrong… and truth is the only thing that matters, whether we want to believe it or not? These are basic facts. When “right” and “wrong” become confusing, and people cannot agree on who are the “good” guys, and who are the “bad” guys… well, that’s a big problem, and perhaps one that can lead to our downfall if we don’t unite for the greater good. Jesus, take the wheel. Please.

Vulnerability Sucks

Being vulnerable sucks and I struggle with it on a daily basis. I have opened up and been vulnerable to people whom I trusted, and it backfired (badly). Instead of feeling brave and free, I felt shame. I believe that being vulnerable has the ability to be great, but it can also go inconceivably wrong in many ways. The disappointment can be brutal; the personal rejection of who you are, and what you stand for, is soul-crushing. Trust is broken, and that is difficult to overcome.

Brené Brown (2010) speaks (and writes) about the courage of being vulnerable: “Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage”. But being vulnerable is painstakingly uncomfortable; it’s not “safe” to share your thoughts (good and bad), feelings, opinions, and especially one’s heart, when there is no guarantee that we won’t face rejection in some way or form, as a result. For those of you who know me well, you know that I put up a fierce wall around my heart years ago. It protected me from experiencing (yet another) ending that inevitably would disappoint, and hurt like hell. So I numbed myself to even the possibility of what could be. Brown (2010) affirms that when you numb vulnerability, you are basically trying to take the pain away from your emotions (i.e. grief, shame, disappointment). Unfortunately, by being numb, you also miss out on the potential to feel joy, and be hopeful about what the future may hold. But having hope can be just as scary as allowing yourself to be vulnerable… maybe even more so, because without hope, you have nothing.

Being vulnerable is scary; especially if you haven’t learned to fly.

Over-sharing?

When I “share” my life and (occassionally… well, maybe more than occassionally) my opinions on my blog or other forms of social media, I open myself up to critique and judgement. It happens all the time; there is always that angry text, or DM meme, that soon follows, insulting my opinion and telling me that I am “wrong”. When it comes to politics (especially lately), people don’t usually budge from their “I’m right and you’re wrong, so shut up” opinion. I just want to know one thing…when did it become acceptable to experience anger and rage because someone has a different viewpoint than you? The “facts” become skewed, and the uncertain, becomes certain, whether it is true or not. Blame is thrown around as if my opinion started a war. Anger erupts, and manners are thrown out the window.

How many of us have asked this same question?

We pretend that what we do, or say, doesn’t have an impact on others; but it does. For every “effect”, there is a “cause”. “If you didn’t do that, I wouldn’t have done this…”. It is all very predictable. Widely known are the words from Albert Einstein: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. It’s all about the choices we make; be it “safe and comfortable” (what we already know), or take another route, for better or worse, and make it an adventure. As for me, I haven’t always made the best choices, and I don’t have any words of wisdom to give you about sharing varying degrees of vulnerability with others in a less awkward, and more comfortable, manner… but if I figure it out, I will share it with you. I promise.

Reference:

Brown, B. (2010). The power of vulnerability; TED talks. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_the_power_of_vulnerability

The Calm After the Storm

We all experience challenges when it comes to working with, and managing, difficult people and situations. Our days are filled with stress and anxiety, and it can get to the best of us if we don’t learn how to self-regulate our response to things that we cannot control. It doesn’t help that we are in the middle of a global pandemic, and at a time of much needed reform to address the great racial divide in our country. 

You can’t calm the storm, so stop trying; what you can do is calm yourself,

the storm will pass. (Timber Hawkeye)

This has been a year of being tested on many levels… emotionally, physically, and mentally. We have all been under quarantine for several months during the Covid 19 pandemic, and most recently, the great racial divide has come to a blistering head, and we are faced with the harsh reality that even in 2020, all men and women are not being treated equally. There is a deep pain that has been centuries in the making, and countless events of injustice that have been normalized for far too long. 

How are we handling the stress and loss of control that surrounds us on a daily basis? I, for one, am struggling. I find myself feeling anxious from the minute I wake up and listen to the Morning News, to the minutes that I finally lie down in my bed, trying to shut my brain off from the noise that is somehow silent on the outside, but deafening, and relentlessly loud on the inside. But it is the time in between those hours, when we are at work, and trying to do the best that we can to carry on with our lives, that can be the most difficult. We struggle to block out the “noise” and strive to make a difference with our patients and their families during a 12+ hour shift. We also have our own families who need us to keep it together, and function in a somewhat “normal” capacity, during a time where nothing is “normal”, and hasn’t been for a while. 

To say that I am a little on edge, well, that may be the understatement of this really challenging year. Unfortunately, as a nurse, we have to try to remain calm when everyone around us is screaming. Yes, during an emergency we focus on the task at hand, and trust that our training will automatically kick in when it’s necessary; that’s the easy part. The hard part is when we are not in an emergency, and we “lose it” over something that may not have triggered us so easily before… maybe over an error with the schedule, or sitting in traffic, or scrolling through social media and reading a post that angers you to the core because you thought your friend was smarter (and better) than that…yeah, it is in those moments where you start to have your own personal “storm”, and it isn’t pretty, and it definitely doesn’t cast a beautiful rainbow in the aftermath. This kind of storm can get you into some hot water if you are unable to reel it in.

I think we all manage stress, fear, and anxiety differently, but for some of us, loss of control is one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome; at least it is for me. I’ve always told my daughter that you can’t control how other people act, but you can control how you respond, or react… that advice is on point, and easy to say, isn’t it? However, it is not always easy to do. Sometimes we don’t know how we will react until it happens to us… we can respond differently depending on the circumstances of the moment. For example, we may be able to remain calm and composed if we are in a great mood and slept for more than six hours… or if we are working with our favorite nursing team… but maybe the words (themselves) are not the issue, but the tone is what rubs you the wrong way? Maybe you just want people to care more, and be more accountable… like you… maybe that would make things different and more palatable? 

I’ve been doing some research and soul-searching to identify ways that I can try to improve my own ability to manage stress, and react in a calm(er) manner when faced with a situation that makes me want to scream a few expletives at an unsuspecting person. I sought advice from two of the smartest people that I know, and they gave me great insight into actions that I could do (immediately) to improve how I respond to either (a) prevent the “storm” from happening, or (b) how to de-escalate it if that ship has already sailed. One of them is a friend and colleague, Dr. Mark Stein, who shared with me some things that have worked for him and are based on conjecture, bitter experience, and frustration with other approaches; they are:

  • Identify what the current problem is, and determine what you want to happen to fix it
  • Find common ground in whatever the dispute is
  • Nobody likes being told they are wrong, even if you prove it with facts (especially if you prove it with facts, I may add)
  • Imagine being them, and try to determine what they are saying, and why they are acting that way; in most cases, they are afraid, and in over-their-head with the problem, and they want someone to help solve their difficulties
  • Offer to help figure out the problem with them
  • Provide a compliment, or kind word to them about something that they did that was good
  • Lastly, and he couldn’t stress this enough, bring in doughnuts from a good bakery, “not just Dunkin’”; sharing food breaks down barriers, and has always worked for him when interacting with a potentially difficult person or group

Dale Carnegie (1981) believed that the only way you could get someone to do anything was to (somehow) make the other person want to do it. Carnegie (1981) also quoted John Dewey, a great American philosopher, who believed that the deepest urge in human nature was the desire to be important. I believe that with this kind of thoughtful insight into human nature, if one can take a few minutes to process some of the issues that have led to a dispute, and strategize how best to address it, in a positive manner, the outcome would be far better than if you allowed yourself to show anger or frustration. 

In the end, no one really “wins” an argument; according to Carnegie (1981), the only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it altogether, because even if you “win”, you still “lose”; making someone feel bad, or inferior, will cause resentment, and that is not a battle worth winning. 

My last thought on this subject is to try to be mindful of some of your own control issues and triggers; not everyone has the tools in their toolbox to manage extreme periods of stress and environmental obstacles that are out of their control.  We are in unchartered waters when it comes to coping with being bombarded by tragedies and heartbreak in the News and many social media outlets on a daily basis. We need to take time to embrace silence, and focus on being mindful of our own needs, while showing empathy to others. No one truly knows what others are going through in their personal lives. Please be safe out there, and may tomorrow bring us closer to peace, equality, and justice.

Reference:

Carnegie, D. (1981). How to Win Friends & Influence People: The Only Book You Need to Lead 

            You to Success. New York, NY:Simon & Shuster. (originally published in 1936).

This article was published on Allnurses.com

https://allnurses.com/the-calm-after-storm-t721220/

American Skin

I read somewhere that ultimate evil is knowing what is wrong, seeing what is wrong, and looking away.

I feel like I am on the outside, looking in, at two different Americas; each with separate rules of law that shine a blinding light on the hypocrisy that is so tragically astounding, it’s actually a crime. I am outraged every single time that I hear about another violent killing of an unarmed African American man/woman/child, by a white civilian, or even worse, by an officer of the law, who chooses to end the life of someone simply because of the color of their skin….as if it is their right to do so… as if they could get away with murder (and some do). And if you’re not outraged too, then you’re not paying attention.

It boggles my mind that some people are quite seriously offended by a silent protest during the National Anthem at a sports event… they do not, or cannot, understand that their symbol of American patriotism and unity, in a one-minute-and-forty-second song, doesn’t apply to ALL Americans. There is no UNITY. There are Americans being killed as the words “land of the free, home of the brave” are being sung. The silent taking of a knee speaks volumes. Many are outraged by it… but what they should be outraged by, is that this is what it has come to… this plea for attention to a crisis in our country, on a public platform. Yes, it HAS come to this.

Who Are You?

Too many people judging others’ skin, when they barely feel comfortable in their own. (ASB)

Please stop looking away. Something needs to be done. We can no longer look away while lives are lost. How do we stand up for what is right, and put racism to bed in the history books for good? This can’t go away on its own; we must all commit to having only ONE AMERICA, with laws that protect and apply to everyone. We need to do better, and we need to be better.

One of my favorite songs by Bruce Springsteen is called 41 Shots (American Skin). Bruce wrote this song 20 years ago, after the police-shooting death of an African immigrant, Amadou Diallo. Diallo was killed in his NYC vestibule doorway in 1999 by several plain-clothed police officers; he thought he was being robbed, so he took out his wallet to give it to them; the police said they thought it was a gun, and shot him 41 times. 41 times! They continued to shoot him long after he was dead. They got away with killing an innocent, unarmed black man… and now, 20 years later, not much has changed.

Please take a few minutes to (really) listen to the lyrics. If you haven’t been afraid to wear a hoodie, or take a jog, or drive a car, or be pulled over by a police officer… well, then count yourself as lucky, but don’t ignore the truth.

American skin (41 shots) 41 shots (8 times)

41 shots, and we’ll take that ride 
Across this bloody river to the other side 
41 shots, they cut through the night 
You’re kneeling over his body in the vestibule 
Praying for his life 

Is it a gun? Is it a knife? Is it a wallet? 
This is your life 
It ain’t no secret (it ain’t no secret) 
It ain’t no secret (it ain’t no secret) 
Ain’t no secret my friend 
You can get killed just for living in your American skin 

41 shots (4 times)

41 shots, Lena gets her son ready for school 
She says now on these streets Charles 
You got to understand the rules 
Promise me if an officer stops you’ll always be polite 
Never ever run away and promise mama you’ll keep your hands in sight 

Cause is it a gun? Is it a knife? Is it a wallet? 
This is your life 
It ain’t no secret (it ain’t no secret) 
It ain’t no secret (it ain’t no secret) 
No secret my friend 
You can get killed just for living in your American skin 

41 shots (4 times)

Is it a gun? Is it a knife? Is it a wallet? 
This is your life 
It ain’t no secret (it ain’t no secret) 
It ain’t no secret (it ain’t no secret) 
It ain’t no secret (it ain’t no secret) 

41 shots and we’ll take that ride 
Across this bloody river to the other side 
41 shots my boots caked in mud 
We’re baptized in these waters and in each other’s blood 

Is it a gun? Is it a knife? Is it a wallet? 
This is your life 
It ain’t no secret (it ain’t no secret) 
It ain’t no secret (it ain’t no secret) 
No secret my friend 
You can get killed just for living in 
You can get killed just for living in 
You can get killed just for living in 
Your American skin 

41 shots …..

Lyrics retrieved from Bruce Springsteen Lyrics database: brucespringsteen.it

Nurse’s Week, and why it’s different this year

I’ve always felt pride when I said the words “I am a nurse”… but this year, amid the health crisis that our world is facing, those words mean so much more than they ever have before. This year, pardon my language, but the “shit” is real. This year, the world has changed; we are living in a time where we must be six-feet apart, and wear masks just to shop for groceries. Hand sanitizer, Lysol, and toilet paper are being sold on the black market, and meat is being limited per person; we are not used to such (dare I say), “hardship”.

Nursing, in the year 2020, has changed. No one ventured into the Nursing profession thinking that we would be risking our lives, or the lives of our families, just by showing up and doing our job, caring for those in need…and yet, here we are. We are experiencing a new reality that brings even the most healthy among us, to our knees.

I have friends who have tested positive for Covid 19 and have recovered (or, who are in the process of recovering), and I knew people who were not as fortunate; who died alone, having no closure at all. I just pray that they had a kind nurse, or other healthcare provider, staying with them, holding their hand, and telling them that they were loved.

While most of us are staying at home, practicing social distancing, almost all (active) nurses and healthcare providers are going to work every day fighting the good fight. The timing of Nurse’s Week this year actually makes it quite ironic, because while most Nurse’s Day/Week celebrations are cancelled (and that’s ok, we have bigger fish to fry), we all agree that the cause is too great to risk any progress that’s been made to flatten the curve. We’ve also been blessed to receive so much love and kindness from the community, shown to us with generous donations of food, treats, and supportive messages to show their gratitude for our work. This year, we are being called HEROES… and that is pretty special indeed!

I wish all of my Nurse friends and family a very Happy Nurse’s Week… I love you, I support you, and I thank you for showing up, even when it’s hard… please be safe.

Be Safe

“Be safe”. We are saying this to one another at the end of almost every conversation lately to let others know that we care about them and their well-being. We are all afraid of the invisible virus that we cannot see, but one that is consuming our days and nights. The biggest fear most of us have is from the unknown; who has “it”, are we “safe”, and if we are, for how long? We lock ourselves behind closed doors and hope that it won’t find us, but you can’t turn on the TV or login to social media without reading about it… without hearing the latest statistics and body count… without seeing the damage that it is causing, near and far, but it’s the “nearness” that is the most scary.

Hospitals are running out of masks and protective supplies. We don’t know if we will have enough hospital beds or ventilators. We don’t even know if we will have enough healthcare professionals to get us through this nightmare of a virus, especially if it doesn’t go away soon. It’s not like other serious illnesses are taking a step back and not requiring treatment or hospital beds… no, they still exist and deserve our full attention as well.

Those who are fortunate are able to work from home, but the bravest people I know are showing up to work every day, even though it’s hard; even though they are afraid and don’t know how or when this will end… while the cowards are out buying up the last rolls of toilet paper and hoarding them because they don’t care about anyone else… as if that will save them.

So if I haven’t already said it to you… please be safe. Please take care of yourself and know that I care about you.

Carrying our Grief

I came across the story of an orca whale whose calf had died; she was photographed carrying her baby’s body across the sea, holding it with her nose as if it would miraculously, in time, come back to life. She carried that baby for seventeen days and 1,000 miles on a “tour of grief”, until finally, the mother whale let it go. It was heartbreaking to watch or think about, and yet many of us can relate to this feeling of loss and deep desperation.

You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice (Bob Marley)

Losing someone that you love is hard; devastating really. I thought about this mama whale because a dear friend recently lost her child; he was a very bright and successful young man, and he fell into a dark place that he could not escape. He took his own life and I doubt that he knew, or even imagined, the ripple effect that his act of despair would have on the world around him… how could he know… he was in unspeakable pain that he hid from everyone, and he felt alone. While we all pray that he has found eternal peace, his family and friends are in mourning; their world has forever changed, and there is a hole that cannot be filled; it remains empty with the ghost of a lifetime of memories; the only thing they can hold onto. 

We all experience grief differently; some fall into a deep sadness, and want to push through the pain alone, while others prefer to tell their story… over and over…sharing memories to keep their lost person alive in some way. While there is not much that we can do or say to lighten this burden of grief, we can try to just “be” with them…be there, be gentle, be kind, and be a good listener.