Friday, August 11, 2017

Thinking of you


When I told Lisa I was going to start working at your old place, she said: "If Mom were here she would try to talk you out of it!" I never really doubted anything you said about it; but now that I've literally walked in your shoes I'm so upset that you put up with all that you did. I thought I knew what I was getting into, and to an extent I've been right-- working short handed, old equipment, staff tensions, shift-blaming-- this is endemic in the industry and I signed up for it when I enrolled in school. I knew I would be tired but I thought I'd have adjusted by now.

I guess I am saying that haven't; and at this point I'm wondering if I ever will, and I wish you were here to tell me that everything is going to be okay.

And what the hell? How did you do it with your chronic pain and exhaustion? I'm angry at myself for not knowing just how hard you worked. Right, I didn't know, but I wish I had. Of course you were the agent of your own life, meaning, you would have changed things if you believed it was worth it for you and it is my error to apply my opinion to your choices. But SERIOUSLY, MOTHER-- you didn't have to work so goddamn hard.

Maybe it is my own disinclination for struggle that I am trying to justify, and maybe I need to just put in a little more time to it and sleep better. I don't know. I'm starting to feel attached to some of my residents and when there's time for TLC a bubble of joy and love floats up in my chest and I know without a doubt that nothing is wasted and there is beauty in everything. It makes me cry.

Every goddamn thing is making me cry. It's my day off, I think I'll cry.

Talk to you later, Mom.


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Day 364

Hi Mom.

A year ago tonight I drove back from Hospice, singing the entirety of Jesus Christ Superstar. It kept me from crying and kept me safe on the interstate.

I had kissed you good night for the last time.

When I sat down just now to write about tomorrow's anniversary, I remembered the anniversary of today, how I left work early to go and be with you. I had you all to myself. It was sunny and clear, like today. Lilacs and all. I sat and listened to the O2 concentrator and watched you breathe. I prayed. I cried. You said, "Love you too." I turned out the light and drove, the peepers chirping in the roadside bogs. You were going to miss so much. You were going to God.

While Jon and I finished walking the dogs tonight I was thinking ahead to tomorrow. I got a lilac to plant at the cemetery and we're all getting together at Lisa's. It occurred to me that it had been an entire year since I saw you last, and, I am doing okay. As a catbird whistled his mixed up medley of mimicked bird calls overhead while we wrangled the dogs, I thought of the catbird that laughed from the trees after your funeral services. I wondered if a wave of grief might come on graduation, and who knows, maybe it will. However, as I switch gears from instruction to review for the boards, I'm more likely to cry because school is over, I will to miss my friends and the now familiar rhythms of study. Pins are ordered. Uniforms sized. Boards applied for. It's really over.

Life changes again.

Patrick is flourishing. You would get such a kick out of him these days. He won "Mr. Congeniality" at the Mr. Holland Patent competition-- that was second place! He played and sang "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" on his ukelele and did some brave comedy involving tight purple shorts. Then he was Pumba the warthog in The Lion King production they did, and he brought down the house. He was hilarious. Finally, this past Thursday, I watched his last vocal concert of high school, and he won the Vocal Ensemble award. He was so happy and I am so proud! I said to him the other day: "You know, just an observation-- you don't seem to be buying in to the idea that you are an adult now that you are 18." He said, "I look the same. I feel about the same. And, I'm really not all that mature, so, no."

There you have it. It is highly likely that I will cry on HIS graduation day!

So-- yes, I miss you, Mom. It hardly seems like a year ago. However, I know I will always feel close to you. We'd have a lot to talk about. It is a shame that our conversations are mostly one-sided. Oh, guess what? Of all the facilities that hire graduate nurses, your old place is looking like my best bet! So at least for now, that's where I'll go. Even if you told me not to, I am going to anyway. There's more to learn about what your life might have been like-- the people you knew and the space you worked in, anyway. It seems right. I'll let you know how it goes.

So-- I'll talk to you later?

Good night, Mom.

Love, Jan.

Friday, April 14, 2017

A Note on Understanding

I am easily frightened by unknown things. I doubt that this is unique to me. When I was small I was terrified of our house burning down but, with experience and education, I learned that fire prevention is a powerful institution and statistically there was a greater chance of me being in an automobile accident. Why blunt-force trauma is less scary to me than being burned alive, I don't know, but I could see that the necessity and benefits of car travel outweighed the risks of being a passenger, and I trusted my parents as safe drivers. At any rate, my fear of immolation dissipated once I gained some understanding.

The same holds true today. I am frightened by unknown things, and understanding makes them less scary. However, even this usually reliable practice of acquiring knowledge as an antidote for fear sometimes does not work. This is twofold: the availability of sought information, and my own resistance to actually seeking it out. Read: sometimes I am scared that I won't find any answers, and sometimes I am scared that what I find out will be worse than what I already know.

As I breathe, work, study, and commune with people every day, I am aware that I am enjoying a truly golden period of my lifetime. Family is happy and safe; my son is coming in to his own and his life is squarely ahead of him. My relationships with others are flourishing. I do work that is mentally, emotionally, and spiritually fulfilling and my career is only just beginning! How wonderful for me, what tremendous blessings and good fortune. This is not something that happened overnight. Careful cultivation, right action, and hard work got me here. I value life on earth as I never have.

This state of appreciation and gratitude is so rich and pleasant that I've formed an attachment to it. It feels good and I don't like feeling bad. I am of greatest use to God and others now, therefore, I don't want it to end. I'm just beginning.

This is why I am more scared of unknown things today: such as missile raids, sub-nuclear detonations, domestic terrorism and shadow governments. First of all, what is accurate and truthful that will help me to understand? Second of all, I am scared that a deeper look will prove what I already suspect: that good, action-minded people like me are impotent in the fight for truth, peace, and equality. Learning that it is all for naught might be too great a burden to bear. So, I keep on, calling my reps and saying my piece even if they don't listen and vote the contrary. What other power do I have if understanding eludes me?

Perhaps as a human being I am missing a bigger picture-- that the planet cannot sustain technology as we've established it. Perhaps, as George Carlin said, we humans are just a surface nuisance to be shaken off this planet like a bad case of fleas. Perhaps consciousness-- that thing that makes us different from animals-- has made us too self-important and it's time for an evolutionary reset. Is a cataclysm impending? I do not know and I cannot assuage your fear of it if you have that. Just be brave, do your best and choose love, and I will too.

Beyond general knowledge and understanding, I've learned that it is having a soft and loving heart that is the greatest freedom from fear. At any given moment, I must remember God is my governor and therein is deep deliverance.

Edit; 1155pm. I wrote this instead of the piece I wanted to write, which might have turned out melodramatic and hopeless. There is always hope, which is why I wrote this instead. Even in these strange and uncertain times, we have each other.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

In the Sweet By and By

Hey Mom,

About a year ago, your busted hip set off the chain of events leading to the end of your physical life. It really doesn't seem like that long, but I notice that years seem shorter as each one goes by anyway, the older I get. I'm doing okay, most days lately I would even venture into "great." I haven't updated the blog, I've been too busy with coursework and practice tests. I've written some of the book I mean to finish about my experience so far with grief and if I can find where I saved the chapter outline I might be able to keep going with it. I don't expect to finish that till maybe September, especially now my focus is on keeping my grades in the nineties and doing well with clinicals. I did my first med pass yesterday. After it was over I wished I could share it with you. Such a strange combination of sadness and esteem passes through at moments like that. I wish you knew Mrs. Vickers, she is my instructor for Med-Surg and supervised the med pass. She is a gentle soul who likes words (exopthalmos, vanillin myxomillan) and is truly a deep-cut, b-side nurse-- that is to say her nursing knowledge goes far beyond the popular Top 40 hits. Decades of experience (and teaching,) and curiosity make her an interesting person and stellar nurse but it is her steadiness that I think I like most. In that way she reminds me of you. I suppose I will often, if not always, look for your qualities in other nurses. Last week she asked me to represent the program at a career day and I was so complimented. So, suffice to say that school is going well and it is making all the difference in me getting past this first year without you.

Speaking of grief, Jon's Granny passed away this past Thursday. This event has refreshed thoughts and feelings related to loss and turns my attention toward mourning and loss but also and more importantly the way loss can bring the survivors closer. It reawakens compassion in me: for the bereaved and as an extension, self-compassion. It is a soft place to be, to be gentle with others, to be soft enough to be leaned on. Experiencing another's grieving-- to have the privilege of that-- facilitates knowing them more. Not that any person has a finite end point of who they are, just knowing what they are like in one particular grief and who they are because of their dearly departed. It is such a gift. I suppose it would be a lot trickier to open up to if trauma was what precipitated the loss. Gratefully, not now. I doubt I would see things this way if it weren't for losing you. Maybe.

Not much else is new. I'm still at odds with my hormones but I think I'm on the right regimen for the hot flashes and night sweats. It's kind of neat and I don't really mind it-- I feel a hot flash come on right between my eyes and on the back of my arms, then I want to be naked for the next five minutes, and then I'm fine. My flagging fertility is not going gentle into that good night, and I am okay with that. Can you believe your daughter is at this age?

In that tangent, Patrick is doing great. He picked up the ukelele and developing a sense of style. He was asked to be in a musical and has some upcoming singing solos. He is staying local for college and I couldn't be happier. At this stage of the game I want to keep him as close as I can.

It's snowing like hell out there. In fact, the world at large is chaos and I am grateful that it is not distressing you. You would be thoroughly disgusted if you saw the news on any one of these days. In some dark moments-- just moments-- I am scared for humanity, but I am restored by knowing that God is all; especially in death. And from what I can tell, death lasts a lot longer than a life. That kernel of faith is enough.

And that's enough for now, on that somewhat morose note. The mystery of your closeness juxtaposed by your physical absence continues to fascinate and comfort me, and I'm so grateful to be doing you proud.


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Dan Rather; I am not

It's getting later and the dogs are shaking their coats because it is almost time to take them out. I wanted to sit for a few more minutes before the weekend came to it's official close, though.

Just a few more minutes. Then, just a few more.

Censor, censor, censor. No, I can't write that. Nor that. Especially not that-- and that other part about grief, nobody wants to hear that tonight, either. This train of thought about what to write is running because of everything I've read in the last couple of days. News, mostly, some disheartening, some triumphant, interspersed with a few personal essays, one of which, had it been on paper, I would have crumpled up and thrown it away.

Why is there so much bad and solipsistic personal writing out there, published? God-damn. So much fucking navel gazing to sift through. I tire of the personal triumph, the first-person coming of age and the how-I-made-the-right-choice-for-me stories written in the same twee tone. No more Huffington Post for me. I think I'm going to adjust my feeds to show nothing but doggo memes, PBS, and The Onion.

So sitting down to write for a moment is wrought with feelings of total paralysis about what I possibly could contribute by way of quality. I reach in and come up with nothing but a thunderous wet fart, a deafening brapper that blows us off the face of the internet. Already, an improvement.

Write what you know, said Papa Hemingway. Don't fucking lie, said Ta-Nehesi Coates. There you have it. The weekend is over. I'm going out to get some air and then I'm going to drag my sorry ass off to bed.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Waves are Meant to Break

I am painfully aware of how often I talk about the weather. How bland! Yet it is a blameless practice that usually leads to other topics. If I can be spared from gossip and judgment when speaking, that's good-- so I can forgive myself another post that mentions the weather.

This is the worst time of year in the northeast. I feel terrible. I'm exhausted and cold. Small things take a lot of effort. I haven't had the confidence-- or the energy-- to write much of anything. I daydream about moving to Hawaii. Aloha Ai, indeed.

Today is an anniversary: Mom's birthday. She would have been 74. Knowing this day was approaching has definitely colored my week. All I really wanted was to be left alone to manage my exhaustion and stay current with school.  ...more than anything. But, I was not to be left alone. I know well enough that life does not stop, and some good things happened: the clinical site I'd been assigned to for the past two weeks encouraged me to apply for work when I get my license, saying emphatically that "We've never had a student we liked as much as you." My program director was pleased when she got the report. Overall, I got to see some neat stuff, apply some theory, and I felt pretty confident and capable; if exhausted.

Gratefully, the measures I have in place for simplicity of living do work. About the only thing that would make it simpler is if I had a chauffeur, a cook, and a butler.

Even simplicity can be difficult to navigate when there is unsettled sleep. I had a dream about Mom yesterday morning that kept me close to tears almost all day, made somewhat worse by the material we covered in class, specifically cancer. In and of itself, "cancer" doesn't bother me --I find it endlessly fascinating, in fact-- yet the lecture was ill-timed. At the end of the school day I caved and ate a whole bag of potato chips. It was that; or it was crying, and I was NOT going to cry.

However, wisdom speaks in many voices, even if not specifically addressing me. I rode this tidal wave of grief, with God holding my hand, all the way home last night. After I had enough of the crying I made myself sing so I could catch my breath. Home, I found Jon cheerful, observant, and cajoling me in on ordering pizza. He hugged me, not letting me off the hook. "I'm not hugging you for you. I'm hugging you because we have to decide if pizza is going to happen."

It happened. We stuffed ourselves on pizza and watched Caddyshack, and I didn't dream last night at all.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

On Love, This Season

What kind of holiday season are you anticipating for yourself and your loved ones?

Historically I have spent December in a state of mild depression; in bewilderment of and with vague disdain for the retail season that often concludes with a norovirus. For many years I've greeted the new year as if it were the cavalry, come to save my hide from ruin. Finally, we can all move on.

This year I stand as if paralyzed. Our country has devolved into an international joke. Who can think about holidays when next year, people might be persecuted for lighting the menorah? Yet I am drawn to the lights I see, the normalcy of heavy traffic near the mall and the rich holiday foods at the grocery store. It's Christmastime, and Christmas is a liniment for the soul. In the past I've dwelt upon the fuss that is made over a day. I've argued, to myself mostly, that the spirit of it was what mattered and one might try to practice generosity all the time instead of saving it all for one day. I admit this is perhaps sanctimonious of me. I know myself all too well, and the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Alas; at least I won't stop trying. To be present and generous now is all that I can do.

It is difficult to stay in the seat of now while our country is crumbling at the foundation. What of next year? What kind of holiday season will that be? I imagine the retail machine ever more garish, cheaply pasted together; while retail workers still don't make a liveable wage. I imagine health care without reform, with overtime pay withdrawn and pharmaceuticals priced out of the reach of the average person. I imagine families kept apart while their sons and daughters fight the new war. I imagine 500,000 teachers out of work and schools empty, while illiteracy and it's successor, poverty, spreads like plague. I imagine protestors jailed, injured and killed for speaking their hearts. I imagine good journalists silenced by threats, rewriting their columns in Newspeak with polite correction footnotes. I imagine religious and racial persecution becoming more visible and the act of rape being decriminalized. I imagine my shame when the beautiful people of Standing Rock are heinously undermined because the new regime moves forward with the pipeline anyway. I imagine a planet on the brink of total extinction because the new regime has thin skin and Tweeting has ceased being a satisfactory outlet-- and there is only one send button left to tap.

I imagine this is the last Christmas where life will look anything like it ever did since I've been alive. For that reason, I am going to celebrate it with generosity, laughter, guarded peace and measured actions. I'm squeezing in all the traditions I can because from here, it looks like I may not see them ever again. I imagine that I must never allow that to come to pass.

From the seat of now I extend love to all my brothers and sisters of the world. It is not my intention to scare you. I believe those of us who love-- be it family, planet, God, or just in general, are already scared. Those of us who love will choose action and hope over fear because it is right and true. It is the loving thing to do.

It's going to be a long road. It may even be a road of reconstruction. Whatever the case, I will do my part and continue calling the public servants in office in support of what is right and true, and I will continue to love those who need it the most.

I wish you and yours a holy season of deep joy and everlasting peace.