Why I Pray

I start and end each day with a simple prayer, which I’ve done for as far back as I can remember. Some days I ask for strength to get through the long day ahead of me; other days, I ask for patience, or guidance in making decisions. I often do “off-the-cuff” casual prayers, because that’s the kind of relationship I have with the ‘Big Guy”; these are actually more like “pep talks” before I even step foot out of bed in the morning. Although in serious times, or when I am worried about something, I go old school with the classics and pray like the good Catholic girl that I was raised to be.

prayer

This morning, after a long, sleepless night of tossing and turning, I prayed for courage. I tried to mentally prepare myself to do something that has been weighing heavily on my mind for the last two months. I had to have an endometrial biopsy done, which really isn’t that big of a deal in the medical/surgical procedure scheme of things, but I was worried nonetheless. It hurt like hell, but I got through it… and so the waiting game begins…these results must be ok.

Each night, without fail, I say a prayer hoping to be a better person tomorrow than I was today. I always try to do/be better. I think about what I should have done, or said, to make a difference. The day’s events play over in my head and sometimes do not shut off. On good days, I sleep well and feel content that I made good choices. Other nights, I think of things that I wish I had said, or not said, and just listened (better). I remind myself to listen more than I speak. I get into less trouble that way.

Accepting Disappointment and Moving On

I cringe when I think about all the time that I’ve wasted worrying about why /if someone doesn’t like me. In the age of social media, “likes” can easily be confused with a measurement of popularity, acceptance, or even love. I recently heard a song with the lyrics “how many likes is my life worth” (TCS, 2018), and it hit close to home because I have caught myself noticing who has “liked” my posts, and even more disturbing, who has not “liked” them; the silence speaks louder to me. I am (still) learning that it is really important, for the purpose of self-preservation, to not pay attention to the negativity, because if you allow yourself to believe that others’ opinions are more valid or valuable than your own, you risk becoming an active participant in the judging and minimization of one’s worth. That is a slippery slope of which I have been guilty.

Not long ago I held someone in such high regard that they were placed on the top of a virtual pedestal of whom I thought was “above” all others in my profession. It’s not fair or realistic to put someone in that place. It is literally a set-up for disappointment; no one can possibly live up to such expectations. Instead of blaming that person for my hurt and disappointment, I had to look at what my own role was in the broken relationship. While I am not responsible for what other people say or do, I am directly responsible for how I react/respond to people and situations. It is during the dark times when you find that your true friends will always shine a light in your direction.

Doing Your Best

All one can ask is that we do our best on any given day. Some days our best is a reach; we are tired and not as patient as we aspire to be. That’s Ok though; forgive yourself. No one can be “on” all the time.  Just remember that when you try your best, it is always “good enough”.

example not opinion

 

Reference:

The Chainsmokers. (2018). Sick boy. Retrieved from https://genius.com › C › The Chainsmokers

 

 

Nursing in Pediatric Rehabilitation

I currently work as a Nursing Supervisor at a magical place where FUN is a core value. The series of events that led me here involved a change in my career path due to the loss of my father, and the need to be closer to home to help my mother, who continues to fight her own lengthy battle with cancer. I firmly believe that we are often led to the place where we were meant to be. I am grateful to work for an organization that practices and leads with kindness and compassion.

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As a pediatric nurse who has primarily practiced in the acute care clinical setting, it has been an enlightening experience to enter the unique world of pediatric rehabilitation. This area of specialty focuses on infants and children (aged 0-21 years) to help improve the physically-limiting disabilities and illnesses, and support/elevate the child’s level of growth and development (ARN, 2016). The pediatric rehab nurse provides a high level of skilled nursing care that fosters recovery and/or adaptation techniques to maximize the child’s potential as they recover from an injury, surgery, congenital anomaly, or chronic illness (ARN, 2016). They are strong patient advocates that ensure each patient’s physical, emotional, and developmental needs are met. Rehab nurses are also teachers; they teach patients, families, and caregivers everything that they need to know (GT feeding, ventilator/tracheostomy care, suctioning, wound care, CPR, etc.) so that their child can (one day) return home.

Rehab nurses get to know their patients and families well because patients can remain in an inpatient rehab facility for a long period of time; often for several months. Rehab doesn’t happen overnight; it takes time and patience. We celebrate the small victories, like tolerating weaning from the ventilator for extended periods of time, or slow decreases in morphine doses for infants who were born from a drug addicted mother.

The process for a patient who must re-learn how to walk, or how to manage/live with the reality of never walking again…or re-learn how to swallow, eat, and eventually speak, can be overwhelming and extremely challenging. It takes patience, dedication, and a lot of hope and faith. In the short time that I have been at my organization, I have seen remarkable success stories firsthand. Most recently, I witnessed a fifteen year old girl re-learn how to walk after sustaining a spinal cord injury from being hit by a car. I held my breath the first time I saw her walking toward me in the hallway with a huge smile on her face. She had worked so hard to free herself from the confines of her electronic wheelchair. Her success is celebrated and shared by all who participated in her recovery.  I am so proud to work at such a special place!

 

Association of Rehabilitation Nurses. (2016). Pediatric rehabilitation nurse. Retrieved from https://rehabnurse.org

Auld Lang Syne

It is the last day of a really difficult year for my family and I, one which will never be forgotten to be certain. It has been a year of loss and pain, but also one of gratitude for the time that we had with my father, and with friends and family. So many amazing people were there for us during our time of grief, and I don’t think that I will ever be able to repay them…try as I may. Many have shared their losses with me as well, and the experience bonds us with heartfelt compassion and empathy. For them, I am thankful.

But the hits keep coming… just yesterday I received news about the loss of a close friend of over 30 years, Ann Marie. Her passing was sudden and unpredictable; shocking really.

A few months ago I wrote a blog post about the “pros & cons” of cancer…some disagreed with me because they didn’t understand that there was anything “good” about such a terrible disease. But I believe it to be true, especially now :

The gift of cancer is that it gives us time to prepare, to let the inevitable sink in. It allows us the opportunity to go down fighting; to try everything that is available, from research studies, to proven protocols. Mostly, it gives us the gift of hope. And when we can see that the hope is fading, and our arsenal of medications are no longer working, it gives us the gift of saying a proper good-bye; saying what needs to be said before it’s too late. The closure that it can bring is the only thing that makes it bearable.

Traumatic, sudden accidents or events, such as a heart attack, 9/11, or a car accident, do not give you closure; death is unexpected. No one can possibly be prepared. There are no “good-byes” or “I love you”, or “I’m sorry”…. there are regrets. And to me, that is even worse than a prolonged battle with cancer.

We were great college friends; exhausted nursing students suffering through our exams and clinicals, but still finding time to have fun, dance, and laugh. I would have never gotten through our Psych rotation without her! She loved mental patients, that’s for sure (and I say that with the utmost respect of course)! She had a special way about her and she could literally talk to anyone and be genuinely interested and engaged. I envied that about her. She had a remarkable memory too…she remembered the craziest things about our adventures, most of which I had forgotten, or blocked out for my own sanity. She would randomly post an old photo of us on FB just because. Those memories were a surprise gift to remind us of the “good old days” and always brought a chuckle, if not a flash of regret for my fashion choices or tall hair (it was the 80’s, afterall). Below is our college graduation picture…Lisa, Ann Marie, and me. Great times.

Ann Marie Lisa and me college grad

We even worked in the same hospitals most of our careers, but I stayed in the world of Pediatrics, while she ventured into Nursing Research. We talked only a few weeks ago… she was checking in on me to see how Shea and I were doing coping with the loss of my Dad around the holidays. We only chatted for a short time, but even with both of our busy lives, she made the time to let me know that she was thinking about me. That was Ann Marie. She was a very special person. She was a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a nurse, and a great friend to many.

She read every one of my blog posts and always left a kind word of encouragement to let me know how much she appreciated my writing. This blog post is for you… this is my way of saying good-bye. I hope you like it Am. You will never be forgotten my old friend. I hope you share a pint with my Dad up in Heaven…please give him a hug from me. I miss you both.

Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should old acquaintance be forgot, and days of auld lang syne?”. Never.

 

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 how much he loved us, 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.

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.

conflict

 

 

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.

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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