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Archive for October, 2009

http://thisibelieve.org/essay/8/ 

I love the thought that the real battle that you fight every day is doing good versus doing nothing…

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33

cupcakeI turn 34 in about an hour and a half. For some unknown reason, I feel as though 33 in particular has been a year of self-assessment. When I turned 33 last October, I remember pondering the fact that Christ had done all He needed to do by the age of 33….and I wondered how I was measuring up….Not in any way to compare my life with His, but more to wonder how I was doing with regards to what I was placed here to accomplish. 33 was definitely a year of milestones – I celebrated my 10th wedding anniversary, and graduated from nursing school. I started full time work for the first time in 10 years, and started my second child in kindergarten here at home. It was inevitable at this point in my life that I would deliberately look at myself and consider my priorities. There are certain personal goals I have set for myself  – attributes, skills, and milestones that I would like to attain. I have set goals for my 30s, 40s, and 50s, that, should the Lord will, I trust will be attained. Beyond that, I know the person that I would like to become, and continuously assess to ensure that I am on the right track – at least as best as I can tell! So, at 33, there are some things I have decided…

I have decided to stop beating myself out trying to be close friends with people who aren’t interested. It takes too much out of me, and they don’t even notice my struggle. So, this year, I gave up on a relationship that I had been working on for 10 years. I honestly felt as though I was no closer to that person than I had been upon meeting her 10 years ago, and felt that way too much energy and emotion had been expended based merely on the expectation that we should be friends.  I am glad to be able to wave and say hello when we meet without feeling that need to go out of my way – she’s just not interested.The corollary to this realization is that I am now free to expend that energy cultivating new relationships.

You know, change is a funny thing. I really hope that in many ways, I am not the person that I was ten years ago. I know for a fact that in many ways, I am not. On the other hand, intrinsically, I’m still the same person I always have been. What makes some parts of us static and other parts dynamic? Despite the changes I like to see in myself, I am finding it counterproductive to expect change in other people. So, I am trying to be more tolerant of those who don’t change in ways that I think they should, and hoping that they are tolerant of me when I am stuck in a similar rut.

Just between you and I, I can be a little paranoid, and have a tendency to take things more personally than they were meant. To hear my Dad tell it, this comes from his side of the family via him and his mother, my Grandma Yvonne. It is only now, at 33, that I have realized how deeply this runs (and how much of it may be attributed to a sense of responsibility for everything and everyone), and am trying to overcome it. My husband has been instrumental in the process of becoming aware of this lovely trait…Thank you, darling (I think!).

I’m also learning some thing about complaining. When you’re a SAHM, you may not be exposed to very much complaining other than your own, which, of course, you feel is perfectly justified. Go to work! Then you will hear complaining like you’ve never heard it before! Being the Libran that I am, I feel the unconscious need to balance everyone around me – so the more complaining I hear, the less I feel I can complain! This is VERY good for me!

There are so many things I want to be and do! Somtimes I despair because there is only one too-short life for me to live. The summary of what I have learned this year is that if I lower my expectations for others while increasing them for myself, relationships are better. I am more contented than I have ever been…I have such a long way to go – maybe  at 66 my self-assessment will be more reassuring…

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Saved by Music

musicGot to thinking about music the other day. I don’t know what music means to other people, or what part it plays in their lives – very few people talk about it with much depth. I can think of a few people (well, four) whom I believe are strongly affected by music – thankfully, one is my husband. I’m so glad we share this passion – someone with lesser enthusiasm would have had difficulty understanding. Jonathan and I own 600 CDs and hours of music saved on MP3 players, and boxes of cassette tapes that we can hardly bear to part with despite increasing difficulties with playing them! I can remember the first Christian album that made an impact on me – it was the Maranatha! Singers Praise 10 album – to this day, I listen to it frequently, not from nostalgia, but because I still enjoy it thoroughly, even 20 years later. (Incidentally, my collection includes most of the Praise series, of which there are 20 albums). When I was in my early teens, my dad started listening to a lot of classical music, and it was at this time that I fell in love with Vaughan-Williams Fantasia on Greensleeves and Tafelmusik, for example. To this day, Dad and I  share a love of music,  which has given us a mutual interest through years where our contact was minimal at best. Working as a nanny in my early twenties I developed a taste for opera, and decided that Vivaldi was my favorite composer. You see, there were plenty of hours to listen to music, and I had access to the collection of my employers and to the local library. I listened to classical music constantly, and my acquaintance with musicals such as “The King and I” grew as they were something the children enjoyed. The fascination with Celtic music grew by leaps and bounds as my relationship with Jonathan progressed. It seems that for every time in my life, there was a musical accompaniment.

All this, perhaps, is not unusual. Those with a lesser need for music can remember songs that meant various things to them throughout the events of their lives. I entitled this “Saved by Music” because I really feel that music was instrumental in developing my relationship with God. I didn’t always have access to a God who was portrayed as gracious and loving…for many years, I was concerned that I could never be good enough to warrant His attention in any significant way. The God preached to me at church wasn’t always someone that I felt I could please. However, the God of music – the God who was sung about by Maranatha and other singers was someone that I could serve – someone with whom I could have a relationship. I felt like it held me though some very difficult times.

My life today is full to overflowing. There is so little time for playing musical instruments, sewing, or reading – three pastimes that I really enjoy. Most days are so full that I don’t know where to start, especially with the lack of energy due to working full-time nights and homeschooling my children. The one sacrifice that I cannot make is giving up music. I need it too much. On days when I feel overwhelmed, some Bach in the background adds enjoyment to my daily tasks. Days when I feel discouraged, some singing from the church in Cloverdale reminds me of what is most important of all, making my problems pale in comparison to the promises before me. Riding in my car, I can snatch a few minutes to worship the Lord through a song that really speaks to me. Andrea Bocelli sings when I cook Italian, and YoYo Ma whiles away a rainy afternoon. Bond and Avalon help me houseclean. The Fables help me deal with missing Newfoundland. I guess the problem with this near-fanaticism is that one must just about keep it to themselves. So often, I have enthusiastically shared some music with someone who did not share my fanaticism, only to be disappointed in their lackadaisical reception. I have reached the point where I share music with very few people. I don’t know if people just don’t have time, or they’re just not that interested. That’s okay. I feel like music has saved my sanity more than once, and no doubt will continue to make a very big difference in my days….

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nurseI drove past a billboard the other day advertising a hospital in the Knoxville area. The motto read “Experience Mercy 24/7.” This really struck me, and as I drove south through Tennessee and into Georgia and Alabama, I  pondered the concept as it applies to nursing. Being a “new grad” and GREEN, it is perhaps premature for me to comment on anything I see at the hospital, especially if those comments might be considered critical in any way. So, those of you who read, please understand that I mean no offense – I’d rather that these thoughts be taken in an motivational way rather than as a criticism.

I looked up mercy at www.thefreedictionary.com and found these definitions: Compassionate treatment, especially of those under one’s power; clemency; A disposition to be kind and forgiving;  Something for which to be thankful;  Alleviation of distress; relief. Personally, I believe that mercy is a one-sided action – the recipient need do nothing to deserve or receive it. Watching many nurses react to their patients, I am beginning to realize that this quality is sadly lacking in hospitals. Some units are trying Disneyesque methods to monitor attitudes of their healthcare providers – the motto “On Stage” is used on some units, with some success. However, the deeper quality of mercy is just about lost. Patients are labeled as “good” and treated accordingly, or ” a doozy,” “high maintenance,” or ” a handful” and treated either minimally or with poor attitudes. Many nurses would resent the implication that their attitudes show to their patients, but I maintain that it is nearly impossible to be complaining about a patient at the nursing station one minute, and offering caring, merciful nursing care in their room the next. Really, the “good” patients don’t need merciful care. They elicit good care by being appreciative and gracious. It is the high maintenance patients that need merciful care – care that is given not because it is so enjoyable for you as the nurse to be in the room, but because you are in the position of clemency.

Birthplaces are quite possibly unique in that the majority of the patients are actually healthy people. However, often the experience of giving birth is as shocking and overwhelming in every way as a major illness. Although our patients are generally with us only a short time and may not be “sick” per se, we are still called upon to provide merciful care. Sadly, many of our patients have personal lifestyle habits that do not promote respect. It is very difficult for a nurse to feel sympathy in herself for a patient who has taken drugs during her pregnancy and now has a baby with symptoms of withdrawal. Our sympathy towards the helpless infant implies near outrage towards the perpetrator of the suffering – who, incidentally, may have been our patient yesterday, or will be tomorrow.  The patient who is so concerned about getting up and out of her room to smoke immediately after delivery that she is indifferent toward the infant is another patient who challenges the attitudes of the nurses. These patients require merciful care – not because they deserve it, but because they are the patient and we are in the position of clemency.  Some patients are particularly demanding, making it difficult for the nurse to stay compassionate and not get frustrated. However, patients have the perogative to be demanding. Are we not all somewhat demanding in our own way? Do we not have family members that we know would make demanding patients –  yet we still want them treated well? Do we all not expect good customer service in restaurants, hotels, and stores? The hospital is a customer service agency that is intensely more personal. It is in our power to treat the patients with kindness, whatever attentiveness we can allow while not neglecting other patients, and respect. This doesn’t mean that you must feel as though you would want to be that person’s best friend outside the hospital, but we must detach ourselves from our personal judgements about the patient, their family, their habits, and their ignorance and provide mercy 24/7. 

We, as nurses, recognize the appalling level of ignorance too often evidenced in our patients. Our region is particularly infamous for poor education, poor nutrition, and a lack of attention to personal well-being. Facts such as these are glaringly apparent in a birthing center. Teaching new mothers is a tremendous responsibility of nursing care. When your patients are in pain, more exhausted than they have ever been, and caught up in the adrenalin rush of giving birth, they are not really receptive to teaching. Still, it is our responsibility to teach to the utmost possible level – if one small lesson makes the difference for one mother-baby dyad, our efforts have not been in vain. Every patient may not be affected by our merciful care, and many will remain unappreciative. Still, when we, as nurses, lay our heads on our pillows to sleep, we will be able to rest easy knowing that we have provided the care that we would want to receive – and treated our patients as we would want our families to be treated.

If you commit yourself to merciful care, the main point to remember is that merciful care is unmerited. The patients who need it are not going to make you want to provide it. That mercy has to come from deep inside you when your personal desire might be to never walk into the room again. It won’t be easy….but it will be worth it.

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