Nurses call button

nurse button

I love, respect and admire a whole heck of a lot of nurses. They just so happen to be some of my most favorite people. In the world. A sister, an aunt, a cousin, best friends, babysitters, and coworkers. And also the ones who have taken care of me. In my own experiences with surgeries and hospitalizations, the nurses who have cared for me have often held the power to build me up or break me down. Many times, they had no idea how much influence their interactions had on me. It’s a tough, stressful, physically demanding and exhausting job for even the thickest skinned person. Lives, both physical and emotional, are literally at stake. I have become so attached to some of my compassionate, shame-reducing, guilt-extinguishing and encouraging nurses. They often carried knowledge about my emotional state and overall well-being that even my closest family members didn’t. The good ones were safe. They saw me vulnerable, weak, and dependent and showed me, a complete stranger, self-less love. I would often dread the approach of the end of their third shift. “When will you be back?” I would ask, selfishly. Because let me tell you that there are some phenomenal, life-giving, utterly selfless and sacrificing nurses, and there are irresponsible, unkind and wreck less nurses too. You have to experience the worst to recognize and appreciate the best, right? I have relied heavily on my nurses in so many ways when I have been in the hospital. They advocate for me, encourage me, clean me up, hold my hand, listen to my story, and comfort my family. These characteristics don’t begin to address the medical side of nursing. All throughout the day they push aside their own discomfort, problems, tiredness, etc. to take care of me. They barely ever get to pee or eat some days. I didn’t even recognize everything they did for me a lot of times, until I was out of the hospital. When I witness, firsthand, some of the most amazing nurses in action, that I have the privilege of working with, I get it. A little.

These nurses that I’m raving about get down on their patient’s level. They listen. They explain. They gently touch their patient’s arm, shoulder, or hair. They possess an unexplainable energy that exudes hope, understanding and love. They do all of these instinctual little things that truly add up to make a huge difference. They feel, and they sympathize with what their patients are going through. They get spit on, peed on, thrown up on, pooped on, and then they change their clothes and go back into their patient’s room. With a genuine “I already forgave you” look on their face. They don’t ever minimize what a patient or family is going through. They recognize that every single person and family is unique. They want to do what’s best for the patient, not what’s most convenient for them. They love and respect people. They don’t judge. They relate. They sacrifice all-the-live-long-shift long. They don’t get to process their day until they’re done. So, when they clock out of work physically, they’ve completed their twelve-hour (plus) shift, but mentally and emotionally their shift begins. They don’t get paid for all of the hours spent processing their day. Thinking, worrying, wondering, hoping, crying, and praying for the people they’ve invested their energy, skills and hearts into helping that day.

Nurses, like many other self-sacrificing, emotionally and physically exhausting, helping careers don’t get paid nearly enough for all that they do. They don’t get to take large amounts of vacation time. They work crazy hours, evenings, weekends, and holidays. If one of their own family members dies, they get one week to grieve. Just one week. Seven days before they armor back up to come save lives. Lives of those they’ve only just met, who have no idea what they’ve endured outside the walls of the hospital.

So, if you know a good nurse, consider yourself one of the lucky ones. Thank that nurse, hug that nurse, appreciate that nurse. They deserve so much more than one week of recognition a year. They often don’t get built up, refueled, recharged or thanked by their patients. Or even their management. But that’s not why the good ones do what they do. They do it, I think, because they understand that they possess a gift of connecting, strengthening, encouraging, and loving a complete stranger in a way that can leave a life-long impression that there is good in this world. Through the unfair, unfortunate, horrible, and painful parts of life, nurses are often the first genuinely caring face displaying empathy, kindness, hope, perseverance and strength.

Go on and love on a nurse today. And maybe next time you are in a hospital, just press the nurse call button to genuinely say, “thank you so much for everything you do.”

Then, maybe you can ask for that coffee with sugar and cream.

Thick gooey guilt

blackstrap-molasses

I vividly remember holding one of my boys on my hip, letting the dog outside, then slamming the sliding glass door shut. Crying erupts. I looked down to see my son’s little tiny finger stuck in the door. I quickly flung the door back open. He was probably 18 months old. Or less. It was an awful feeling. I desperately tried to comfort him while looking at his finger to see the damage. That I caused. I did it. Just Me. I hurt my sweet boy. The guilt set in fast. And hard. Over the course of the following weeks, maybe eternity, the nail on his little finger turned black. How nice, a daily reminder of the accident caused by yours truly. Cue the “Mom of the Year” music. Ahhh. I haven’t gotten my speech ready. Oh wait. I wasn’t even nominated. I’m sure they attempted to contact me, but I probably couldn’t find my phone.

I felt horrible. It didn’t help that every person I knew and didn’t know saw his strikingly black fingernail and asked, drumroll please….”What happened?” Or some more like (insert gasp)”WHAT happened?” Oh, I slammed his finger in the door. On accident. Yep, me. Not the twelve pound dog. Or his twin brother. Or his dad, although I’m sure the thought of throwing him under the bus surely arose. Numerous times. I would like some guilt to go on top of my guilt. Ask again. And again. And. Again. One more time, please.

The sad truth is that it would take forever to list all of the physical and emotional accidents that were mostly, well, 100%, my fault. I’ve hurt people with my accidental actions and intentional words. A rude tone, an unreasonable expectation, or an over-reaction resulting in damaged spirits. Especially the littlest and most innocent ones in my life, my little boys.

Not too long ago, I got so upset with one of my boys for kicking his brother. It was a repeated offense. I put his cowboy boots away. In my closet. And sent my son to his room for a break while I consoled his injured brother. A little later, we were leaving the house. Dragging his feet, through hunched shoulders and a lowered head, my boy barely got the words out. “Am…I…not… a…part…of…the… family?” What??? My heart dropped then quickly responded, “You will ALWAYS be a part of our family. No matter what you say or do. There’s nothing you ever could do to make us not love you.” And I continued on and on to really drive the point home. But still, I will most likely always remember that moment. That exact location. And that awful feeling. I wanted to rewind and react better, differently.

I just today shared about the time that I pushed one child too hard and fast on the slip n’ slide. A collision of my sons occurred. Two year old versus 5 year old. Two injuries resulted. Busted bleeding lip on the catapulted-by-the-mama younger child and bite marks to the back of the older, yet scrawnier, rear-ended child. So much for happy summer memories of slithering down the old rummage sale slip n’ slide. And let me not forget those times that I’ve bonked all of their heads, on door frames, cabinets, and walls while carrying them around the house. All of my boys have been little monkeys, they would rather ride than walk. This mama monkey tries to do too much with too few or full of hands.

We’ve had uber amounts of playground accidents. My boys have always been climbers. I have encouraged them, while many times, holding my breath. Little Spidermen. One time, one of my boys tumbled off of a wall, looked up at me and said, “But you didn’t catch me.” My thoughts exactly, yet falling gently out of the mouth of a three-year old. Ouch. Dagger is in. Just twist it gently.

Now is the time to stop reading and report me. Just call Division of Family Services, Kansas. I have some social worker friends who know the number, sadly by heart, if you need it. They might be busy though. Really busy. You will probably just have to leave a message. Because unfortunately, there are too many people neglecting and hurting children. On purpose.

“Accidents happen” doesn’t quite offer the reassurance or peace that it is intended to. What about the dreadful nearly or almost-accidents? A lot of summers ago, I stood at the faucet, turned the hose water on. Two 9 month old boys sat happily in an empty baby pool in our backyard. Freedom. We had made it out of the house. But it was so stinking hot. Summer cabin fever. I began to fill up the plastic pool. My baby boys began crying awful, painful, help-me cries. I ran over to them. Please, God! I quickly lifted them both out of the water, the hose water had been trapped and heated by the sun…all day. Why wouldn’t I think of that? I remember spitting out the first nasty hot sip of hose water as a kid growing up. You have to let the water trapped in there out first. I knew that. I beat myself up. Kept replaying the scene. Over and over again. And my boys didn’t have any visible lasting burns. Slightly pink skin for a few minutes. It could have been awful, head-to-the-hospital kind of bad.

As I write about these accidents, some years ago, I recognize that’s what they were. Not-on-purpose. No premeditation. My only motive was to try to be a good mom, survive, and offer my kids an outlet for their endless energetic busy bodies. That’s it. But even today after thinking on a few of these accidents, and every time I see a friend or caregiver who has that painful look in their eyes, I get it. I feel it. The guilt that can be suffocating. Debilitating. Hopeless. And typically unproductive.

I know from experience that you can only tread your arms and legs for so long in that guilt. Thick and gooey, it’s dark and painfully sweet, similar to molasses. It entices you, lures you in. First, one bad thought. Then, it’s a pile on. What you should have done differently. How you should have known what was going on. You should have lived closer. Been there. Paid more attention. What you should have said. Or what you shouldn’t have said. Every solution is always so much easier to see in the aftermath of the disastrous guilt-producing episode. A good mom wouldn’t have been so impatient. A good mom would not have locked herself in the bathroom or the closet. A good wife wouldn’t have said that. Done that. A good friend would have called. Visited. Communicated. The list goes on. And on. We can be the toughest competitor when we are in the ring alone. We know our own weak spots like no other. And we take full advantage of them. We can take little short dips in the guilt or sometimes we can get all creepy and wrinkly from hanging out waaaaay too long in that nasty, gooey, dark guilt bath.

There are the small, though they hardly feel that way, accidents that one can quickly recover from, and then there are the tragically deeper, more lingering, life-altering events. Survivor’s guilt. Why do I get to go home and hold my children when she leaves with empty arms? Why did I live, but she didn’t? Why couldn’t I protect my brother? Or sister? If I would have only known. If I would have paid better attention… Not getting to say sorry before it was too late. Once you’re submerged in that yucky, thick pool of guilt, it is so hard to get out. You need some time, though not too much. Your thoughts can feel like a broken record repeating in your mind. Over and over. Somebody move the needle. Change the song. Turn it off.

You need encouragement. Someone to tell you that you love on purpose, not hurt on purpose. Don’t balance on the edge. Don’t try to throw a friend that life saving device. As a certified guilt lifeguard, you have got to get in the nastiness and help carry your friend, sister, or brother out. Tell me what I’m really good at. Fill me up with truth. Tell me how I can change, be better and live differently. How I can remember and honor loved ones. Drown out those awful, untrue thoughts that got me into that messy molasses in the first place. You are a really good person. A good mom. A good friend. A good wife. A good coworker. You’re just not perfect. And that’s okay. Nobody is. You’re here, you’re alive and you’ve got to make the most of it. Even in the midst of so many unanswered questions and so much pain sometimes. You probably will dip your toes into the guilt again, in a weakened state, but you know that the sweet smell turns foul quickly. Get out. Stay away.

I just finished reading this book, “Falling Upward.” I think I practically highlighted the whole book. It may just be perfect timing. Richard Rohr’s wisdom and ability to articulate his thoughts made me feel like he was writing a letter of sorts, to me. Two quotes I highlighted popped into my head when working through how to deal with this guilt, or these imperfections. That I think we all have.

“If you have forgiven yourself for being imperfect and falling, you can now do it for just about everybody else. If you have not done it for yourself, I am afraid you will likely pass on your sadness, absurdity, judgement, and futility to others.”

We have to forgive ourselves. First. The old “put the oxygen mask on yourself before you attempt to put it on others” theory. Ahhhh. But I want to put it on everybody else. I will get to myself, eventually…..More like, I will most likely get to nobody. Including myself.

“If we know anything at this stage, we know that we are all in this together and that we are all equally naked underneath our clothes.”

I believe that we were all created by the same loving, forgiving, and grace-filled God.

Sometimes, you can be treading so hard and going nowhere. The once tempting smell that drew you in becomes nauseating. A guilt fest can be lonely, sickening and alienating. We’ve all been there. We all would love to do anything not to go back. But yet, we do hop in that gooey guilt tub. Time and time again. It is a rare occasion that guilt fests change what already has happened. Only, well, never. We need each other to get out of the funk. Been there, felt that. Didn’t like it. Help me get out of the gunk. Tell me something good, actually, convince me. Get me out of that yucky molasses. Nothing good happens in there. Ever.

Goodbye Lou and Will

image

I broke a promise to myself this week. It was not written down, it was more of one of those mental promises. Lacking accountability. Since I was the only one who even knew about it, I tricked myself. I did a little negotiating, some bargaining and the next thing I knew, I was a promise breaker. Oh, the guilt. The disappointment. It wasn’t anything über exciting or dangerous. The promise I broke was that I started reading a new book. I’m currently reading five different books, all different genres. I promised myself that I could not, would not, should not start a new book until I had finished at least two of the five I was currently reading. I don’t want to an irresponsible book reader. Leaving books unfinished, feeling unimportant. The problem is that I never know what kind of mood I will be in when I get the chance to do a little reading. Or a lot. In my defense, I didn’t have a novel in my line-up. I felt that it was just unfair to deny that “fictiony” side of myself. Why would I not think of that? Pure justification, no remorse.

I should  mention the weather has been absolutely beautiful, sunny and incredibly spring-like this week. Everything is the happiest green color. My kids love playing outside for hours in this season. And it’s just best to take a novel to the park, in my opinion. We went to a lot of parks this week. I just couldn’t put down my new-ish book. I began falling in love with the story, the setting, the characters, and just turning the pages of that promise-breaking novel. My boys played so well together, for the most part, and didn’t even ask me to be the “Dog Monster” aka chasing them around crazily. All of these conditions resulted in me finishing this “new” book. In a few days. I stayed up into the late hours reading, hoping, and wondering how the story would end, but now I am a little sad. Actually, a lot sad. I already miss the characters in this book. I didn’t really get to formally say goodbye to them. The book just ended. It seems wrong.

I started thinking how fulfilling it would be if authors of fiction novels could find the real-life people who best represented the fictional characters in their book. Then, when you finished reading the book, you would be cordially invited to a party to meet, talk with and say goodbye to your short-lived novel friends. I just loved Lou and Will, characters in the book I just read. And I want to meet them. Honestly, I think Lou and I would be good friends. I would be up for meeting in Paris. Though, I’ve still got to get my passport. Until then, a Starbucks in Kansas will do. Or maybe Parisi would be better. These novel friends would be welcome to come hang out on my back porch. I could make them a margarita or two. I would probably cry and give them a long, awkward hug when they had to leave, but it would be a lot better than just closing the book. Knowing how the story ends sometimes just doesn’t offer much comfort. I’m not much of a re-reader type of person. I will most likely give this book away to someone who will take good care of it. Someone who will love it. The (fictional)people in it really mean a lot to me even though we just met a few days ago. Goodbye, Lou and Will. And all the rest of the likable characters too. Sarah Mclachlan, I need you. Or just your song…..”I will remember you.” Na. Na. Na. Na. Na. Na. “Will you remember me?” Probably not, seeing as you’re fictional characters. Goodbye Lou and Will. Maybe I should just start another book. Or finish one of the ones I started.