Month: August 2011

The Divinity Of Life…

I do not want to become so invested in the details of my professional day, that I become oblivious to the movement of life that is the quintessential “perk” of my job as a nurse.

A few years ago, on a day like any other, I checked on a patient at work just prior to leaving for home.  This gentleman was elderly and very ill, and I was so very frustrated that the day’s staffing shortage left me feeling inadequate as his nurse. This was not a new feeling and any nurse reading my words will identify with this sentiment.  I can clearly remember walking quickly down the hall and ruminating in a state of annoyance over the negativity of my day.  When I reached my destination, I flew past the first patient resting closest to the door and threw my gaze to the second patient whom I was more concerned with due to the more critical nature of his situation.  This gentleman was on his side with his back to me-a smaller framed man with smoky-gray fuzzy hair that stood straight up all over his head.  His skin was leathery and sagged off of his bones like he had been given too much for his skeleton to hold…a sign of the strapping man he used to be in his younger days.  His skin was ashen with lack of proper oxygenation and the soft whoosh of air from the oxygen tubing whistled around his nostrils.  His eyes were closed.

He clasped the hand of a younger man who sat directly beside the bed-close enough that his upper body was leaned down into the bed next to the patient.  At that moment, the fact that I had intruded washed over me like icy-cold water.  The younger man, who appeared middle-aged himself, looked up at me with the most pure eyes, pleading.  “Papa is sleeping” he said quietly smiling at me.  I fumbled out an apology for my abrupt presence.  The gentleman had strawberry-blonde hair and matching moustache.  He was simply, but cleanly dressed.  He sat with his hand held by his father.  With a hint of bashfulness he said “as soon as I sat down he did this” motioning towards the intertwined hands.  “Are you the afternoon nurse?” he asked.  I explained that I was about to end my shift, but that the other nurse’s would remain on until early evening.  I quietly asked if I could do anything for his father.  His son looked at me with the most exquisite mixture of love and pain, and tears swelled uncontrollably in his eyes.  To describe the feeling his face evoked in me would be like trying to explain how love feels.

“He seems to be okay” he said, “I think he just needs me to hold his hand”.  “He turned 89 earlier this month…I hope we get to see his 90th”.  The raw emotion of that moment could not have stirred my soul more.  Middle-aged son transformed to a little boy unashamed to express affection for his father.  Staring at his Dad as if he would either fade away, or be willed back to life by the power of desire.  Hanging by the thought that this situation was veering down a path he was unwilling to walk on…the prospect of life without his father.  “I haven’t seen him this comfortable all day” I offered honestly.  His son smiled.  “I don’t want to keep you” he said…”enjoy your day”.  Enjoy my day, I thought.  Mulling incessantly the increasingly unmanageable workload and toxicity of my professional environment, I felt immediately embarrassed.  A man who is watching his father actively engaged in the dying process has the presence of mind to see into my turmoil and advise me to enjoy my day.  How do I learn from this?Driving home that night I concluded two things-to not learn from this would be a grave ignorance of the human spirit.    I was also truly able to appreciate that, regardless of age, one is always someone’s child.  I believe that when people are in a state of pain in their soul, their being becomes a magnet for other people who are also in an unsettled state of being.  I also believe that this is all part of a larger picture and an attempt to facilitate learning and supporting of each other.  Sadly, I also believe that we ignore many opportunities to connect, just as I did that day.  Instead of widening my radar to encompass others, I narrowed my view until I could not see anything but my own turmoil.  It took someone at a more raw level of emotion to point that out.

Can I Please Be Excused?

I have my bachelor of nursing and a certificate in critical care nursing.  I have been a registered nurse for the past five years.  Recently, I have come face to face with the ugly truth that I have been denying a secret desire that has been whispering in my ear for years.  I am quite certain that I have always known my truth in the very core of my being, but repeatedly dismissed my creative urges because I was filled with self-doubt.  To be blocked in this way is to feel a frustration like no other…I lost my way.   My compass became external reference points…what I “should” do versus what I “wanted” to do.  A chance encounter last fall provided me the map back to road.  Thankfully, I was open enough to accept it.

I went back to school in my late twenties, and, having a child, and a set of some very unfortunate circumstances, I enrolled in a program that I knew I could complete and end up with a full time job upon graduation. I remember the disjointedness I felt in school when clinical time came around every term.  While I loved and craved the patient interactions, learning, writing and studying aspects of my program, I was a wreck when it came to implementing the skills.  I can clearly remember driving to the hospital on clinical days praying that some event large enough to cause respectable damage, but small enough that I would only be slightly  maimed would occur.  I always felt so at odds with myself over this…I have always strived to maintain a cooperative relationship with my inner voice.  This time, I was telling the inner voice to take a hike-I had a degree to complete.

Subsequently, the degree was completed, four years on the Dean’s list was attained, and I even received an award at our graduation dinner for “excellence in clinical skills”.  Obviously, I did miss my calling-perhaps it should have been acting if I fooled them that well!  I remember thinking to myself while accepting the award that they either had absolutely no other graduating nurse to give the award to, or else I had done such a great job, I even fooled myself.

I began work on a medical/surgical floor hopeful that the “passion” for nursing was just going to smack me in the face with the passage of time and experience.  I chalked most of my misgivings up to the fact that I was new…and in a profession that carries a big burden of responsibility-people’s lives.  While it is no secret that the health care profession in Canada is in a crisis situation, the reality and impact of that crisis becomes quite personal when you are living it.  Staffing shortages and overtime are the norm.  Burnout is a way of life.  There was no period of “initiation”-you were thrown into the bathwater that was often ice cold with frustration and resentment.  Please do not misunderstand…I do not refer to everybody in the nursing profession in my descriptions.  As in every job, there are good days and bad days.  There are many system constraints that can sometimes be a hindrance to fluid delivery of health care.During my studies I had had great visions of the caring, holistic, respectable profession I was entering into.  Nursing is one of the most trusted professions after all.  It made me feel good to know that I was doing something…ahem…noble.  I was helping others and making the world a better place.  The only problem I could see with this deal was that I felt stressed to the limit in the process.  If I could just tweak that little detail, I would be alright.

Like the good little soldier I am, I convinced myself that more education would help rid this anxiety I felt every time I was put into a situation that was beyond my realm of comfort.  This feeling of discomfort most often occurred during staffing shortages-frequently if you are familiar with our health care situation at all.   At one point, I even considered becoming a doctor so that my ideal little mind would know what to do in EVERY situation.  You see, at the heart of my anxiety was my ever-present perfectionist complex that has been my buddy for as long as I can remember.  Not only did I want to do it, I wanted to do it the most perfectly, efficiently, and effectively.  I wanted somebody to write a song about the beautiful way I nursed.  I attended in-services, education sessions, lunch ‘n learns, and even put myself through the rigours of a critical care program because I thought if I knew more, I would feel better.  I did quite well in everything I attempted.  I still wanted to run for the hills every time I went to work.   Despite my quest for excellence I neglected to realize one important fact-my issues actually had nothing to do with me and everything to do with system issue-issues totally out of my control.

We have a conference room on our floor where we listen to the shift report about the goings on of all the patients prior to the start of every shift.  This room had been formally used as a patient’s room before a big remodel took place several years ago.  On the wall there is a switch plate with a little cord.  Below the switch plate read the words “pull cord for help”.  I read those words every time I enter the room.  I have fantasized about the outcome of pulling the cord…would the room suddenly transform into an Aruban beach with a strawberry daiquiri and a lawn chair?  Would a dozen of the world’s finest physicians pop out of the air and help me through my shift?  Would I ever be able to just make it simple by helping myself out by acknowledging that I am actually enough on my own, and that the other issues are beyond my scope of control?

Enter serendipitous encounter with aforementioned “tour guide” who showed me the map back to me.  I was gently guided to the fact that nursing satisfies many of my thirsts in life.  Despite many system pitfalls, I have been so unbelievably blessed in my interactions with patients, and my privilege to be present in people’s lives during their weakest times.  There is something very raw about illness-people tend to lose their “outer” reference points and become very intertwined in their own body, mind and spirit.  Exactly the way it should be.  Although writing is my passion, nursing has opened a channel for enriching experiences that I would never have otherwise.  The two are interconnected and feed each other.

Are You There Alex? It’s Me…Amanda

As we meander along in our blogging relationship, you will become privy to certain information.  These sporadic revelations may even be news to those in my innermost circles.  These revelations may leave you wondering about me and the condition of my brain.  I prefer to look at it as a means of providing you with easy access to my personal musings…as if I have allowed you to read my diary.  Accordingly, I am observing this blogging process as the chance to do the same…some self-reflection of my innermost thoughts in public.

I hold Alex Trebek in great esteem.  Although I know nothing about him personally, my inner nerd will explain that Alex and I go way back in my television-watching career.  Although Wheel Of Fortune tweaked my interest for awhile, I quickly became bored with the pesky flirtation between Pat and Vanna.
To me, Alex was the epitome of knowledge collection-like one great big receptacle for unlimited snippets of information.  Show after show he would stand at his podium providing answers on a wide range of subjects.  Ever so pleasantly would correct the poor shmuck who failed to deliver the answer…or deliver it in the form of a question.  The man had to be a genius to be involved in that kind of information exchange night after night.  I used to imagine how valuable it would be to have someone like Alex Trebek in one’s posse-one would never be stumped again.  Even at a young age I valued the ability to acquire knowledge.

As my values and beliefs systems have evolved with the passage of time, I have remained steadfast in my silent reverence for Mr. Trebek and his ongoing absorption of information.  It is interesting how sometimes the concepts we construct as children don’t often cause us pause for reflection until we are adults.  Recently, I was watching an episode of Jeopardy with my husband.  As the first commercial break was winding down, I turned the channel to a different program as I have always done.  When my husband questioned me about the channel switch, I replied “I can’t watch the part where he speaks to the contestants about their background.  It makes me uncomfortable”.  No sooner had the words left my mouth when my husband erupted into laughter.  I instantly felt horribly embarrassed as I realized the absurdity of what I had just said.  It dawned on me that answering questions about theory was one thing.  Being interrogated about why you were known as “Rooster” in high school by the man who knew something about everything was another thing altogether.  Though I commended Mr. Trebek for his smooth deliveries during the game, it was too painful for me to watch the awkward banter between guests and host.  In the question/answer arena, the contestants and Alex were poetry in motion.  In the up-close-and-personal portion of the show, it was like watching a train wreck.

It occurred to me that though it is both necessary and meaningful to value concepts and admire people, it is never beneficial to raise the bar so high that it gets in the way of the ability to see clearly.

When A Goat Is Not A Goat…

Those who know me well might say that I am gullible.  I prefer to consider myself trusting…impulsive in my inclination to believe.  There are times when that trait has led me astray.

One crisp fall day many years ago, I was enjoying the company of two good friends in the student lounge at university.  The talk was light, the mood was good and there was only one class left to be endured for that day.  As our conversation was winding down in preparation for our trek to our respective classes, several other members joined our little group in the lounge.  These individuals, although not well known to me, were familiar to my friends.

After  introductions were made, a casual comment was launched by one of the newcomers of the group to one of the males who had also just joined our conversation.  “Hey Rob, I see you shaved your goat” said the guy I did not know.  “Yep” said the other guy I assumed was Rob, “shaved ‘er last weekend”.  Hmm…interesting.  I knew that these individuals were from a more rural part of the area, but I had no idea that they lived on farmland.  What an observant guy to note that his friend had shaved his goat.

Not wanting to be anti-social (and being ever-so-curious about the aforementioned goat) I thought it was time to join the conversation.  “How come you shaved your goat?” I asked Rob as my friends were beginning to collect their belongings for class.  “Just felt like it I guess-needed a new look” he responded looking a bit perplexed as he gave his answer.

“Weird” I mused to myself.  These people must develop really close relationships to these animals-he is talking about this goat like it’s an actual person.  I pressed onward because the intrigue was becoming too much.  “What did you shave your goat with…probably shears or something?” I wondered directing my query to Rob.  “Shears…nah…it wasn’t that long.  I just used my Gillette razor” he laughed.

I was instantaneously horrified as the mental image of a squirming goat being held down and shorn by a Gillette razor flashed repeatedly through my head.  I glanced weakly over to my two friends who were engrossed in another conversation at this point.  I felt nauseated…my mental train was out of control.
“Did anyone watch you do it?” I asked wishing arduously that he would say that someone tried to intervene in this escapade.  After all, I deduced, he is a guy and guys do stupid things.  “No…I sort of like to do those things in private” Rob said slowly looking at me in a very strange way.

My face burned as I realized that I was conversing with a twisted goat-shaving maniac.  I grabbed my bag and motioned to my friends that I was leaving.  I began walking, and headed directly for my class unable to rid my mind of the revolting images.  Somewhere out there, a naked goat is running around.  As the day progressed, so did the mental pictures in my head.  By the time I got home that evening, I could see the headlines “Girl Singlehandedly Halts Goat-Shaving Ring”.

As I mustered up the courage to call my friend and fill her in on the day’s conversation (and to ask her to join my plight), I worried about her reaction.  After all, she was friends with this monster.  Nevertheless, I conceded, it must be done.  No other goat shall endure the same fate.

After an embarrassing conversation, a few laughs and a lot of shameful whining, I realized that there was an important lesson to be learned of my misinterpretation.  Sometimes a “goat” is just a goat, and sometimes a “goat” is a goatee.  Always check your “facts”.

Never Be The Same…

My name is Amanda McEvoy and I welcome you with open arms to my blog!  I look at this as an opportunity to share with you some thoughts, events and friendly recommendations about life. It is a continually growing collection of recorded events that have served to construct the person that I am today.  Look at it as a recipe, a map or even a quilt of combined circumstances and happenings that have produced my personal mosaic…my life mosaic.

I have always wanted to be a writer (more about that later).  I have not always known how I would execute my craft.  The idea for this blog came quite by accident as I was standing in the lookout area of the CN Tower on Canada Day 2011.  After walking through the maze of skyscrapers to get to our sight-seeing destination, I was amazed to look out from my high vantage point and spot a huge area of green space smack in the middle of the concrete jungle.  I also discovered that there was an organized layout towards most of the city which felt quite chaotic to me on foot.  It occurred to me that in order to write “THE BOOK” as I had been hankering to do,  I had to look at its production as the sum of its little parts…the “big picture” if you will.  Sometimes the big picture is hard to see when you have become engrossed in your own preconceived ideas about what something “should” look like.  This blog is the unexpected green space in my flurry of “shoulds”…my crib notes to stroke my creativity and churn out some ideas.

Since I was old enough to think a thought (and be aware of what I was thinking), I have longed to record my information in one spot.  This is not only intended to be for the benefit of the select few who may read my words (thank you), but for the additional purpose simply to organize some of the experiences of my years in much the same way an architect creates a blue print.  You see, I have discovered that writers, at their very core, have an organic desire to be understood.  Likewise, people (as a generality) have a burning need to understand who they are as people and why they think the way they do.  These observations can be strongly supported by the sharp rise in talk shows, self-help departments and popularity of “counselling” as a way to make sense of the world.  That being said, I’ll leave you with my thought on the whole situation-no one will ever understand you the way you understand yourself, which, ironically, is exactly how it should be.  This blog is simply a running collection of “happenings” that together helped to form my interpretations on life…and it’s quite alright if they are not wholly understood by the public at large.  Having them together in one spot gives me clarity and continuity of thought.  After all, it is really all about me isn’t it?