Aunt Baby and Alvin Wesley

Aunt Baby and Alvin Wesley
Reasons I Smile...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Own Your Role

Don't Take the Weight of the World On

This life lesson is one of those kinds that "is easier said than done". Nevertheless, we really need to try to honor this one. Otherwise, it can be quite maddening.

For years, you see, I suffered with the "guilt of a survivor". To be redundant, this is actually coined "survivor's guilt".  I survived "six" gunshot wounds, and an innocent woman died after "one fatal" shot to the head.

Why?  How?  So many other detailed questions  and none can actually be answered. I had so many that to relay them here, I'm afraid your head would actually spin.  All in all, it took me many years and much soul searching to realize that I never pulled the trigger. I never killed anyone. For years, though, it sure felt as though I had.

Although I am generally open about my experiences if it is for the healing or education of others, I am extremely confidential when others share examples~~ both personally and professionally. This was strongly reinforced by my Mother and professionally by the ethics and confidentiality involved in the field of Nursing.

In almost 30 years of adult experience and practice, the theme of universality, despite gender, culture, age and other socioeconomic factors can be quite remarkable. I find this to be especially true in the tendency we have to want to "take ownership for everything".

  • One of my clients, was newly diagnosed with diabetes. He had been watching his diet, had joined a fitness center,  and had already been taking oral hypoglycemics, diabetes medications, for a couple years. However, he was still told at his last physical that he had to start taking insulin and monitoring his blood sugar daily with a glucometer.  "What have I done wrong?"  In actuality, the client has and continues to do everything right; yet, there is a strong family history of diabetes. With the same attention to good health practices and the addition of insulin, he has "owned his role" and is doing very well.

  • One of my friends told me that she was "let go" from a position where she had established a beautiful rapport with a young boy with a learning disability.  This was something no one else had been able to do. The reason, in all honesty, boiled down to maternal threat. Yet the given reason was totally unrelated. In the end, my friend is bereft; and the young boy misses the support.  "What have I done wrong?" Honestly, the reason given, if pursued, was discriminatory. My friend has, thankfully, moved on to other work. She sadly owned her role, which was caring for her charge. This is one of many instances, with different circumstances, where employers treat their employees in a most deplorable manner. At times, the person is unjustly terminated in the end. Could this be, in part, due to our tumultuous ecomomic times?
No matter how long or how difficult the task, we need to tease out our accountability for and the amount of control we have in coping with these heart-wrenching situations. All the while, we need to remember to own our role and to allow others to own theirs.

"You are a child of the Universe, no less than the moon and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the Universe is unfolding as it should."  (Max Erhrmann)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Give Yourself Time

Slow Down...No Rush

I just paid my respects to a lovely older woman whose husband of 64 years had died. They had married when she was 24 years young. Having been married almost 24 years myself, it is hard to fathom saying good bye to your soulmate of more than twice that many years. My friend felt even worse because she, herself, had been at the doctor's, as she had not been feeling well. Some even wondered if he had chosen this time to die, so she would not be there to worry even further. Instead, his son was by his side at the hospital. 

While he had been suffering with multiple medical conditions for the last couple years and had actually been transferred to hospice care over the last month, no one in the family was ready for his death, least alone his beloved wife. She was lost, sitting in tears. She still wore her nightgown and robe in the middle of the day. She had a distant look in her eyes as well wishers brought casseroles and desserts, no doubt, more for their comfort than hers.

Luckily for her, beloved children will handle the necessary details around her that must be tended to. I always remembered the family members and businesses that were gentle with me at times of trauma and loss.

Conversely, there were some unfeeling business companies that ignored communications and common decency. This made grieving so much more painful. My way of dealing with this was to channel my unresolved anger into letters of shame where  I reminded others of the Golden Rule. This sometimes resulted in a letter of apology, but always made me able to move on from the issue, as forever resolved.

I realized that nothing could return my former life or loved one. I am forever blessed to have the gifts and strengths that I have learned through these experiences and wonderful people.  I have the ability to share these lessons with others in the good work I do each and every day that I am fortunate enough to be alive. 

This was not readily apparent to me through my times of suffering and grief.  As such, I am eternally grateful for time and the perspective it brings.  No one could tell me how long the process of healing or recovery will take. Every situation for every person is as unique as they are.  I know these matters may not be rushed by the time constraints of others, whether family, friends or co-workers. And I know that, just when you think you have all your grieving behind you, the smallest reminder or trigger will surface. Wham, you are reminded all over again!  But I have found it always gets at least a little better with time, in your own due time, in your own way! 

"Remember, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but she did it backwards and in high heels."  (Faith Whittlesey)

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Rise Above It

Breathe - Does it Really Matter in the Scheme of Things?

I wasn't quite prepared for the hospital environment I entered as a brand new graduate nurse.  I was only 21 years old, not at all ready for the psychiatric diagnoses and the staff personalities I was about to encounter.  It was fairly easy to get me to blush furiously or burst into tears, sometimes within the space of  five minutes. 

A terror of a nurse, named Jeanette, took me "under her claw".  I grew to both fear and respect her simultaneously. One of her first lessons to me, no matter what the circumstance, was to rise above it!  In my early years, I remembered this mantra as I learned and gained confidence in dealing with all types of staff and patient behaviors.

Through the years, as I was promoted into educational and managerial positions, Jeanette, who always remained an excellent Charge Nurse, would respectfully remind me to rise above it, when she was in a Union capacity or at a Committee meeting.  Many of us sadly attended her funeral in the mid-90s, shortly after her retirement on medical disability. She had left a large void at the hospital. This nurse was all grumpy on the outside but ever so soft on the inside.  She taught so many of us from her heart.

Little did Jeanette know that her words would be my mantra during the darkest 46 hours of my life, when a colleague and I were held at gunpoint by man who could not be reasoned with. I knew that I could not speak or I would be shot again.  He was way too volatile. The only choice I had was to keep telling myself to rise above it. 

I thought it when I was angry. I thought it when I was frightened. I thought it when I was outraged. I thought it when I wanted to say something and knew I could not. I thought it when I felt like crying. I thought it when I felt like screaming and cursing.  And I thought about other strong women in heaven like my mother - in - law, Arlene, Lillie and Clem and how they would all be helping me rise above it. 

Our thoughts are more powerful than we realize.  Only we have control over them.  I know there were other variables at play that resulted in my ultimate survival in 1999. However, I stand firm that positive thinking throughout the ordeal helped me keep my inner strength and resolve to survive remarkable odds.

As such, I haven't given up on Jeanette's mantra.  I really don't care if it is the speedy roadster that cut me off on the way to work or the gentleman at the Mall who slams the door in my face as he is rushing to enter.  It is probably best to rise above it.  If I thought awhile about it, the offending party probably has something very heavy on their mind or could just be rude. It certainly, however, isn't worth ruining any part of my day because of it.  I can hear my wise Mom saying "just chalk it up to experience."       

Come to think of it, Mom and Jeanette were "cut from the same cloth".  Even today, I can feel these wise women helping me, as they taught the truest of life's lessons. Most of the things in life that really offend us are so minor in the grand scheme of things.  Isn't it better to think about how much effort you want to put into reacting to these petty grievances? 

"When I am all hassled about something, I always stop and ask myself what difference it will make in the evolution of the human species in the next ten million years, and that question always helps me to get back my perspective." (Anne Wilson Schaef)