The Overthinking Perfectionist

Today I did a paint night with my mom. I had purchased these tickets as a Mother’s Day gift for last year but the event was cancelled and we finally got an opportunity to use the vouchers we were given. I looked forward to this for two reasons: time with my mom and a chance to nature my inner artist as a writer by doing other forms of creative activity.

My mom and I had a nice lunch with poor service at the restaurant the paint night was being held at. The poor service at the restaurant had me a little worried. Sometimes when I get bad vibes about something that annoys me before a writing session, my writing session ends up being crap because it throws my ju ju off. I was having fun with my mom though and that was the positive thread that held this together for me.

There were only six of us, all women and we sat in tables of two. Almost immediately, one of the women stated she would not be painting the painting that we would be doing, instead she’d be painting a picture for her girlfriend of twelve years sitting next to her. It wasn’t the relationship that annoyed me, it was the fact that she had to draw attention to herself. People who have to be the center of attention in a group annoy the shit out of me. Every relationship is meaningful in some way. I don’t indulge information about my personal relationships in public to a room of strangers. She frequently interrupted the flow of the painting lesson to ask which colors to mix up to get the color she wanted. At one point the hostess artist came around and asked her to tell her about the painting and it’s meaning to her. Everything in the painting represented an aspect of their relationship. The painting was symbolic to her, ok. I can accept that, but I still didn’t want to hear about it.

The selected painting is wine glasses . We began by making a basketball sized circle with white paint in the center of the canvas. Next we mixed blue and white together to make a blue circles around the white circle in the center and mixed a little blue in the middle. After that we began to draw the wine glasses. We started by drawing the oval shaped opening of the glass, followed by the body of the glass and the stem. I quickly became frustrated with how my strokes were looking how my wine glasses were shaped. The painting wasn’t coming together for me and I couldn’t envision what the end product would look like. I was on the verge of a temper tantrum and this painting was headed for disaster.

The hostess artist came around and made some suggestions and also said something that resonated with me. She said, “you are over thinking your strokes”. That was it. That was my problem. I’m a perfectionist who was over thinking her paint brush strokes and trying too hard because I’ve never considered myself artistic and I wanted to make a pretty painting. I had lost the essence of the activity. I looked over at my Mom. Her painting was awesome and she was having fun. That made me happy. Here I was about to act like an ass and throw a fit because my wine glasses didn’t look right. So I quickly regrouped. I used a few tips that the hostess artist had showed me and I fixed my wine glasses by outlining them with black paint using the smallest brush. The strokes I outlined the glasses with in black paint came more naturally and I added some of my own color to the top. The painting came together nicely and in the end I was pleased.

The other added bonus was that we had a short intermission where we went outside to take one shot at Corn Hole. Whoever got their bean bag in the corn hole won a free ticket to another Paint Night. When it was my turn I took my time, aimed for the hole and swung my arm in alignment with the hole the same as I do when I play Skee Ball. I won myself a free ticket to Paint Night. Even better than that though, this hostess is at this restaurant every Sunday. After football season ends my Mom and I agreed to come back again. I look forward to taking the time to nurture my relationship with my mother and my inner artist. If you haven’t tried a paint night, I’d highly recommend it. Even if you don’t consider yourself and artsy artist, you’ll surprise yourself.

It made me happy to look at this painting as I was writing this blog post. I am also proud to announce that I am on a writing streak. I have written sixty five days in a row. I journal and practice gratitude. I am nurturing my inner artist and getting to know myself again through my writng. Today was perfect.

Off to bed now. Tomorrow I have to be nurse.

Advertisements

A Day in the life of a Nurse

On Friday, if anyone were to ask me if I’d recommend nursing as a profession or if I’d be happy if my children told me they wanted to become nurses, I would have said no. My shift started out smoothly. I had a good assignment and I was able to get my two 0730 patients into the OR safely and without delay. As I was reading over my third patient’s chart, one of my coworkers asked me to look for IV access on one of her patients.

Prior to entering the room, I learned that variables that classified this patient as what we call a “hard stick”. I entered the room and introduced myself with a smile and told the patient I’d give her IV a try. I felt confident. I’m good with hard sticks. I take my time and I’ve been complimented by multiple patients that my technique is gentle. This patient was tricky but I felt a few small veins in her hand and I decided to use a smaller gauge needle. IV needles have a bevel at the end and the technique requires us to puncture the skin with the bevel up. Upon entry of the needle, we wait until we get a blood return before we advance the needle into it’s final position. After that, we click a button and the needle retracts into the handle and the jelco is left in the patient’s vein. I prepped the patients skin and held her hand with my left hand, pulling the skin down to secure the vein under the skin. As I punctured the skin, bevel up with not even a big enough portion of the needle in her skin to even maneuver the needle, she let out a blood curdling scream at the top of her lungs and in my face. My body jerked and stiffened immediately and I froze for a second. My initial reaction was shock and I tried to quickly regroup and continue with the task of this difficult IV stick. I was too distracted and shocked though and decided I couldn’t proceed. I covered the needle with gauze and removed it. I applied a piece of tape and pressure to the site, looked her in the eyes and said, “I am sorry if I hurt you. You really startled me”. She really didn’t give me a chance. Shortly afterwards, the shock turned into anger. I washed my hands and quickly exited the room. I managed to escape without the patient realizing that I was angry. Three of my coworkers were standing outside of the room with their mouths hanging open. Someone else told me the screaming could be heard on the other side of our unit, forty yards away. I was thankful that this patient was not assigned to me because I although would have taken good care of her, I would not have been able to feel empathy for her. It took me several hours to shake off the screaming, the shock and anger.

Later on, I received my sixth patient of the day from an inpatient unit. She had five family members with her. As a rule of thumb, most nurses do not allow that many family members in the room when there is care to be provided with time constraints. I personally find it disruptive to my care to have that many people at once in the room so I politely asked them to choose one person to be in the room with the patient during my care and promised the rest of them can return afterwards. They agreed and chose the patient’s son. Everything was fine until the son became argumentative during parts of my interview. He didn’t like the way I described the Advance Directive question that we are required to ask. He interrupted me when I was doing the pain scale assessment and insisted that his mother didn’t understand. I matter of factly explained that I wasn’t finished with the pain assessment yet and hadn’t determined if the patient understood it or not because he interrupted me. I proceeded to question the patient on her pain tolerance and as it turned out, the patient did understand and answered the question appropriately. I completed the pre-op interview and called the rest of the family into the room until it was time for the patient to go into surgery.

The two scenarios that I just described occur more often that nurses wish to to reveal to people outside of the health care industry simply because most people just don’t understand. It happens to all of us, in some form every day. In addition to the many things we see in our work that we don’t tell you, we endure working long hours, evenings, nights, weekends, holidays, short staffed, underpaid and very often with empty stomachs, full bladders and achy feet or backs. What I experienced on Friday, takes its toll on nurses over time and makes us question why we chose this profession. It is a huge contributor to burn out and job dissatisfaction. Why would I want one or both of my children to experience this throughout what will be a career that will span over forty years? Why am I putting up with this? Where is it written that just because we are care givers that we should have to tolerate physical and verbal abuse just because people are sick? But somehow, for some reason we continue. We try to shake it off as best we can. Sometimes we have a drink when we get home. We vacation. We pray, We exercise. We meditate. We engage in activities that we enjoy. We spend time with family and friends. We thank God everyday that we are healthy and do not have the diseases that we treat.

To my patients I say: I am your caregiver and your advocate. You are safe on my watch. I am a registered nurse. I hold a nursing license, a bachelor’s degree and a nationally recognized certification. You’ll never know the blood, sweat and tears I shed during college and throughout my career to become the skilled, knowledgeable and caring nurse that stands before you. The fact that you don’t know me as a person or as a nurse, doesn’t give you the right to tell me I don’t know what I’m doing. If you’d give me a chance before your judge me, you’ll see that I do know what I’m doing. Being sick and afraid doesn’t give you the right to verbally and physically abuse me. I know you are sick and afraid and I promise to give you my very best. Please treat me with the same kindness, you wish for in return. Please remember, like yourselves, I am a human being too.

Mother’s Day Reflections

I have a physician friend who’s specialty is infertility. Once she posted on Facebook that she was working on Mother’s Day to help other women become mothers. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever seen posted on Mother’s Day and I commend her for it. This morning when I woke up at 0700, the first thing I thought about was how social media was going to be flooded with Mother’s Day posts, not only celebrating our own mothers, but also celebrating being mothers. My heart truly aches for women who haven’t been able to conceive a child and have constant reminders of that everyday of their lives. I wonder why God blesses some women with children and others not. Unfortunately, only God knows the answer to that.
I remembered the mothers who’s children have died before them. I thought about people who’s mothers have died and hoped they were watching from Heaven. I prayed for all of these types of people today before I went about actually celebrating my own Mother’s Day.

I attended 1100 Mass today at our church. My daughter is a member of the youth band there and once a month they play during the 1100 Mass to give the Contemporary Band a week off. We arrived at 1015 and instead of dropping my daughter off and going back home and coming back, I stayed in the pew.

I thought about my relationship with my own mother. When I was a teenager, she wasn’t my friend, she was my mother. She was a tough love kind of mother and that’s what I needed. We had a saying, “I don’t like you, but I love you”. We became friends later after I’d graduated college and I wasn’t such a smart ass anymore. She once told me that I have raised my children very similar to the way my brother and I were raised. That’s one of the best compliments she’s ever given me. I thought about my grandmothers. They taught me how to be the better person, how to be a good Catholic and taught me the Sicilian customs every Sicilian woman should know. They are both gone but still with me in my thoughts and actions. I thought about my Godmother and how she is a nurse and she inspired me to become a nurse when I was only four years old. When I earned my Bachelor of Science in Nursing with a 3.904 GPA, I purchased an extra set of my Sigma Theta Tau International Nursing Honor Society Honor Cords and sent them to her.

Finally, I reflected upon my own motherhood. I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed each phase of my children’s lives: Newborn. Infancy. Toddler. Pre School. School Age. Teenager because each of them came with their own set of challenges and rewards. Running teenagers around after a busy work day is just as exhausting as a newborn that doesn’t sleep or an irrational toddler that tests every ounce of patience you have.

It’s all gone by so fast and my husband and I are thankful for every moment our kids want to spend with us. I have a freshman in college who doesn’t know if he’ll go on to graduate school or medical school after his bachelor’s degree or come back home to look for a job and my freshman in high school who says she’s, “so out of here” when she goes off to college. To me, it hasn’t been a job, it’s been a privilege. Somewhere in heaven upon conception, their souls chose me as their mother.

As Mass ended, the Priest gave all the moms a special blessing and sent us on our way. My mother’s day was nice. Naps, good food and quality family time. I am a lucky girl.

The Other Side of the Equation

The operating room staff gave my husband and I paper gowns and allowed us to accompany our daughter into the operating room. I stood aside and watched them take over and prepare her for the procedure. Everyone had their role and they identified what their roles were. They were a well oiled machine. They made sure she was comfortable on the operating room table and explained things as they went along. They placed monitor leads on her chest to monitor her heart during the procedure. The anesthesiologist prepared her equipment and drew up the white medication in the syringe that was going to be used to sedate my daughter. She asked my daughter where she’d be traveling in her dreams today and my daughter replied, “Italy”. Everyone in the room agreed Italy would be an excellent place to go in an anesthesia dream. The anesthesiologist pushed the medication into my daughters iv and placed the mask on her face simultaneously. Within seconds she was asleep and I knew my daughter’s life was now in their hands. I kissed her forehead and backed away from the operating table so I could be escorted out of the room. I remember everything that happened today vividly but the thing I remember most is my daughter’s clear blue eyes, going to sleep with anesthesia.

Fortunately it’s not often, but for once I was on the other side of the health care equation. Instead of someone putting their loved ones life in my hands, I was putting my loved one’s life in someone else’s hands. I was critically ill when I had my son. I was in the hospital for a week during that time. On my sickest day, I absolutely couldn’t stand the nurse that took care of me. She was mean. Thirteen months after he was born I transferred to the Emergency Room. My own experience of being critically ill and being taken care of by a person who had no business in a field where compassion is requirement, not an option, taught me to reassure my critically ill patients that things are going to move quickly but I am here, I will not leave them, I will tell them everything we are going to do and that I will take good care of them.

I am a preop nurse. I knew what to expect today. I wasn’t afraid. I simply knew my baby was going to be well taken care of. The staff demonstrated that to me through their knowledge, skills and compassion immediately. As a preop nurse who’s now just sent their child into surgery under general anesthesia, I can now empathize how my patients and their families are feeling on the day of surgery. It’s beneficial for health care workers to have experiences like this. Being on the other side of the health care equation helps us understand and empathize so we can do our jobs better.

Walking in Silence

I follow this couple on Instagram that is currently thru hiking the Appalachian Trail. Recently in one of their blog posts, they discussed how they had a decision to make about an aspect of their lives off the trail and how they were having difficulty making the decision. They chose to walk in silence and ultimately the decision came to them. Their practice of silence resonated with me and I couldn’t wait to hit my favorite hiking trail so I could walk in silence.

I am currently studying The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra. The first law, The Law of Pure Potentiality is based on the fact that we are in our essential state, pure consciousness. Pure consciousness is pure potentiality, the field of all possibilities and infinite creativity. In order to practice The Law of Pure Potentiality, one must practice silent meditation, commune with nature and perfect non judgement.

Even though I’ve been out walking here and there as the weather gets warmer, today my husband I went hiking for the first time since January 30, 2017. I told my husband that I was going to practice the Law of Pure Potentiality and walk in silence today. We agreed to hike our own hikes at our own pace and meet up later. As I began to walk in silence, I wondered what I would discover during my silent hike. Instinctively, I found myself pausing to look through the tall trees up at the beautiful clear blue, cloudless sky wishing I could stay in the woods all day. There were birds happily chirping. I spotted a butterfly and stopped to observe two deer running across the trail. I witnessed the presence of spring in the woods. There are green buds on trees and in the grass and I came across a patch of pretty little blue flowers. I heard the sounds of my own footsteps; my boots making a crunching sound when I walk on gravel and small rocks or a hollow sound when I walked over dirt. I listened carefully to birds chirping and stopped to sit on a log on top of an elevation so I could look at and listen to the flowing river below me. It was heaven right here on earth.

The winter was hard on my asthma this year. From February through mid March, I completed two rounds of antibiotics and steroids. I’d find myself short of breath walking up steps, walking too fast, walking a block in the cold and wind, or even carrying my patient’s heavy belongings to a locker. It was scary and discouraging and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to tolerate hiking again.

Also through my silence I was able to focus on reclaiming my hiking body. I hiked with my new trekking poles for the first time today and the rhythm of walking with two poles came easily. I focused on controlling my breathing. Because I was alone, I stopped when I needed to catch my breath when I hiked on higher elevations and I reassured myself that getting my heart ticking a little faster and becoming winded because of a higher elevation was a good thing. To my surprise, I hiked five miles today and did just fine. I can’t wait to hit the trail again. I was silent for three hours and I cherished every minute of it. 

There is so much to gain through silence. It’s different for everyone. I don’t have to tell you because once you do it, you’ll know. Close your mouth and open your eyes and ears. Turn off your phone. Turn off the television and radio. Close the book. Be with nature. Watch the sunset. Walk in the woods. Be silent. Just be. Try it. You won’t regret it.

Just Jump In

When you were a young adult, do you remember those first few major decisions you had to make? You know, the ones that helped determine your path in life? Where to go to college? What to major in? What kind of job you’d take after college to begin your career? The kind of decision that once you made it you were excited about it, yet it sent chills down your spine at the same time because you couldn’t believe you’ve come this far and made a decision like this. Then reality really hits and you get to live out what was once a dream. Day after day after day.

I had those feelings too. For me, the reality that I was in nursing school didn’t really slap me in the face until I stepped off the elevator on my first clinical day in the hospital. I took a deep cleansing breath, inhaling through my nose and exhaling through my mouth. During the process, I smelled three things; body odor, hospital soap and those disgusting powdered hospital eggs. I gagged, because I’m a gagger when it comes to disgusting smells and then I asked myself what in the world did I get myself into. Not every college student is about to go learn how to clean someone’s ass properly and get graded on it. Eventually though, I got used to those types of things and I knew I was in the right place.

Last summer my son was trying to decide if he wanted to march in his university’s Independence Day Parade with the marching band he was about to join as a freshman when he entered college in the fall. He went back and forth, yes, no, yes, no.  Finally, one of his mentors told him, “Jack, just jump in”. He thought about it and he listened to his mentor. He jumped in. He marched the parade and met some people that would end up becoming some of his close friends. He was happy he did it.

Today my son took another plunge. He declared a major. Biology. He has more questions for his advisor so he’ll be returning to see her in the next few days and will soon choose courses for the fall of his sophomore year. It’s hard to believe I was in that place over twenty-six years ago and now I’m watching my first born experience it. Talk about something that sends chills down your spine as you hope and pray this child gains as much success and happiness in his career as you’ve had in yours. At this moment though, I know how he feels; excited and nervous as he tries to imagine what he’s going to do in the field of Biology. The possibilities are endless Jack, just jump in.

My Grandmother’s House

My grandparents bought their house when my dad was a kid. My grandfather lifted the house off the ground with a crane to dig the basement and gutted the house with his bare hands, to make it their own. My grandmother’s house hasn’t been her house for over 20 years. The house is still in the family and has been remodeled with as much hard work and love as my grandfather put in to it all those years ago. I’ve brought my husband and children to the house, after it was no longer my grandmother’s house. It looks good. Different. Many years later I still remember how it looked though, when I was a little girl.

The house had an L shaped porch with a nice size front window. I remember running up the steps to get to the door. The screen door had a nice metal design. Woven in the metal was the first letter of my maiden name. The door had several dead bolt locks. My father used to call it Fort Knox. The front hallway had a hollow sounding floor and I often wondered if I stomped hard enough if I’d fall through the floor. The front hallway let out into the dining room. There were two bedrooms off the dining room. The living room was in the front of the house. Straight through the dining room from the front hallway was the kitchen. Behind the kitchen was a bathroom, another bedroom, the basement steps and the back door. The top floor had a little apartment where my grandmother’s sister and brother lived. The house smelled as every other Italian household does, like sauce, like home. I adored my grandparents and I loved being there with them.

My grandmother was the fourth child born to Sicilian Immigrants. There were five boys and three girls. My grandmother as the oldest girl was the matriarch of her family. Her house was always open to family so naturally her siblings congregated at my grandmother’s house. Even though I called them Aunt or Uncle, they were like having more grandparents and that was really cool. Several of my grandmother’s siblings were serious card players. They’d gather on Friday nights and some Sundays after dinner at my grandmother’s house to play cards. My grandmother never played in the big complicated, competitive card games. She only played the smaller card games with her sisters, my cousins, my brother and I. My grandmother would whisper in our ears not to laugh when one of them had a bad hand or announce what cards everyone had in their hands. We had to quietly observe. Sometimes we’d snicker though. My grandmother’s brother’s wife liked to instigate and egg the card sharks on and they’d get annoyed at her and all of them would start bickering. I begged them for years to deal me into that game. Finally I was allowed to play at age 15.

As the years passed, the card game began to shrink as my grandfather died and my grandmother’s siblings began to die. My grandmother died in 2005 and was the sixth of her siblings to die. Her youngest brother died four years later. Yesterday, the final sibling, my grandmother’s sister passed away at age 97 peacefully of natural causes. I have no doubt that when my aunt got to heaven yesterday, her siblings were there to deal her into their favorite card game once again.

My grandparent’s generation of our family represents the first generation of American born Sicilians and they played a significant role in helping shape my generation, the third generation grow into who we are as American born Sicilians. They are now all gone and the simplicity of life as we knew it back then, no longer exists.  Even though I’m an adult and married with children, part of me is still that little girl who couldn’t wait to get to her grandparents house to watch those card games and be with that generation and part of their world.

If you picture it like a scene on a stage where the lights are shining on one particular setting, that setting would be of my grandmother and her siblings in her dining room playing cards. It is one of my favorite memories,  frozen in time, in my heart forever. Those card games not only represented a favorite past time, but a gathering of family, the love they had for each other and how they enjoyed spending time together. As for the passing of my aunt. Sure I miss her but I’m happy she’s reunited with her family and able to rejoin the card game.