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

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

Defending your Life: A Nurse’s Story

defending-your-lifeheaderI recently watched the movie Defending your Life (again, for at least the 10th time), which is a romantic comedy that came out in the 90’s starring Meryl Streep and Albert Brooks. In the movie, Meryl Streep plays someone who lived an exceptional life on Earth; she was brave and generous in her life, giving of herself, and her love, without fear. Albert Brooks, while a good person at heart, was someone who made some bad choices because he allowed fear to rule his life. The concept of the movie is that all who pass on (with the exception of children and animals), must stand trial in Judgement City to defend their actions in life; both good and bad. More importantly, the ability to overcome one’s fears was examined in order to be deemed worthy of advancing into the next phase of their existence… or, be sent back down to Earth for a do-over. The plot is complicated by both characters falling in love during their brief time in the afterlife; and Meryl’s character, who was brave and faced her fears in life, was judged to be able to move on; while Albert’s character, was not. Not to worry (spoiler alert), in the end, good ole’ Albert finds the courage to fight to join Meryl in her tram ride to Heaven; and those who had judged him not worthy, saw this act of bravery, and decided to let him stay with Meryl. The end.

This movie always makes me wonder if I would ever be deemed worthy enough to pass into the next phase of existence. I am basically a good person; I’ve made mistakes, sure, but let’s face it, who hasn’t? If I were put on trial today, would I be able to prove that I overcame my personal fears? I would say no, not even close. My fears and anxiety have only grown as I have gotten older. Let’s be honest, we are in trying times right now; between our twitter-happy commander-in-chief, the potential for war with North Korea, the questionable future of the Affordable Care Act in healthcare, climate change and the environment, and having to wait until 2019 for season 8 of Game of Thrones, our future is uncertain. Of course I realize that losing sleep and worrying over these important issues isn’t actually solving any of those problems, just adding to my neurosis. The best thing that I have going for me is the work that I have done/do as a nurse. Surely, that has to hold a lot of weight for the Big Guy, am I right?

Nursing is a very demanding and sometimes, thankless job. We care for all patients equally, risking our own health (mental and physical) to work long shifts, 24/7/365; missing holidays/special events/dinner with our families/sleep/bathroom and meal breaks, etc… and that’s just touching the surface. Each day is an unpredictable adventure that brings new challenges and struggles: short staffing due to sick calls, train wreck admissions from the Emergency Department, patients “crashing”… fill in the blank. Are we perfect beings, no, but we work really hard and try our best every single day to care for those in need.

In New York and New Jersey, nurses were some of the first responders that were in a state of readiness after the 9/11 terror attacks at the World Trade Center; all employees were called into action, waiting for patients that never came; this realization was the most difficult to accept. We were greatly affected after Hurricane Sandy as well; many hospitals were running on generators and managing to run safely to care for patients with limited supplies that were delayed in being replenished due to the inability to receive new deliveries for several days. Many staff were unable to get to work; those who were already there, stayed, praying that their own families were safe and sound at home.

A few years ago, nurses were trained to safely care for Ebola patients; that took a lot of courage. Many were nurses who volunteered to be trained, even after a nurse in Texas contracted Ebola after caring for an infected patient. That is what nurses do; we care for those who need us. We must always be in a state of alertness and ready to be called for duty to provide care in any situation. I believe that nurses overcome some degree of fear every day; you walk into your unit never knowing what the next 12+ hours will bring. It’s always a surprise, good or bad. I also believe that nurses help their patients through their fears; when patients are their most vulnerable, and most afraid, it is their nurse that sits beside them, holding their hand, and letting them know that they are not alone. I like to think that in the end, if and when we are called to defend our lives, that is what is most important.