Let’s face it – I rarely wash my car. There have been a few times that people have carved “WASH ME” in the dirt on my bumper or windshield. Yesterday as I was traveling to meet a girlfriend to go to a play, I looked in my rear view mirror and saw that someone had traced a pretty little heart on my back windshield. Funny how a small thing like that made my day. I felt loved! And I admire the vandal who chose to write a heart instead of a Wash Me message. Thanks, whoever you are. The more I thought about that heart, the more I wondered about my own behavior and judgments. Would I rather tell someone to wash their car, or just love them no matter what mess they’ve made? I want to choose love.
Today was quite the experience for me to learn to “walk my talk.” When my alarm went off at 6AM I woke up tired and achy. That sometimes happens since my brain surgery. I just got up and got ready for work and then meditated, which usually banishes the fatigue. I went to work, meeting with nursing students at their clinical sites, and felt great. When I got home I ate lunch, meditated, and then graded papers. While reading the computer screen I became exquisitely exhausted and achy again. To cope, I had a snack outside thinking that would perk me up. It didn’t. So I finally decided to rest on the couch in the living room, feeling irritated (I have a lot to do!). That didn’t perk me up either. So I gave in and meditated again on my bed. I began to feel that today would be a bit of a loss, but that’s OK I could deal with it. Then I thought that I should just stop meditating, get up, and lift some weights and if that wiped me out I would lay back down. It was a little scary because I did not want to push myself above a reasonable limit. Well, I lifted the weights and ta da! I felt fine. With all the teaching I do about positive thinking, guess what? It works. After lifting weights I continued to grade papers and narrated a PowerPoint presentation and I feel just fine. It was worth the effort. I just did not want to lay in bed feeling sorry for myself. Not cool! I am feeling a little achy right now as I write this, so maybe I will go DO SOMETHING.
I have an unusual (to me) flowering plant in my back yard. The flower is large and vibrant red, just beautiful. But I’ve noticed that the bloom only lasts a couple of days. I always like to look at the plant every day when I go to the garden, to remind me of how I should live life to the fullest for the couple of days I am here on earth. And it reminds me to really appreciate and enjoy the beauty around me before it goes away. Then I go to the garden to harvest the zucchini, and I find humongous zucchinis that I can’t really use. They grew huge and I didn’t notice. So now I use the zucchinis to remind me to be more mindful and notice things and people around me before they outgrow me. Plants are so inspiring!
This past week I had the opportunity to share some time with many of my friends with whom I have a lot in common. I spent a lunch and dinner with a friend who lost his wife to cancer a year before I lost my husband to cancer; I had a girls game night at my house with other single friends, and I went to breakfast with my tai chi buddies (pictured). It was great to compare notes and ask questions regarding our current situations. With my widower friend we talked about “dating” and challenges of being single. With my girl friends we talked about how easy it is to just stay home and not do anything. And with my tai chi buddies we talked about the many benefits we received from doing tai chi together. What I learned from these interactions is, I’m not crazy! The things we talked about were things I have been experiencing and wondering what other people are going through, given similar circumstances. Having groups of friends I feel comfortable with is a great blessing. There’s just something about being able to share and compare notes that makes me feel like I’m not alone – I’m a part of something important. And I’m not crazy.
A few days ago I had a laser treatment on my left eye for glaucoma. The ophthalmologist sort of poked a hole in my eye so the pressure would be released. Left untreated, glaucoma could eventually take my eyesight. The experience made me think, if I were to lose my vision in a few years, what do I want to see before I go blind? I asked my 21-year-old grandson the question and he immediately said Japan. I searched for my own answer, thinking about countries and landmarks and art work I’d like to see. Nothing really stood out. I finally came to the conclusion that there’s not really a thing or place I just have to see. My answer is that I would want to be sure to see the faces of my grandchildren as much as I could before losing my eyesight. Then I looked at the question from a different view: What is it in my life that I’m not seeing or refusing to see? What am I turning a blind eye on now? What opportunities are right in front of me that I am not acknowledging? Well I wish I could say I have an answer to those questions, but I don’t. I’ll keep pondering this, and keep enjoying the faces of my grandchildren.
Well, I made it through my first week back on a full-time schedule! I met with students in my new office, I went to a wonderful meeting with the board of directors of the Utah Integrative Health Alliance, and did other things a college professor should do. But mostly, I graded papers. My fatigue was manageable, so I really think I will be fine. My big goal at work is to be a voice for incorporating principles of holistic nursing into the curriculum. I’ve been asked to develop a stress management for students across the curriculum, in every semester. So I’m reading up on mindfulness again. This week a student had an assignment to teach veterans some health promotion concepts, and she chose to teach them about relaxation and stress management because I taught it to her in first semester. That is very rewarding to me. Students seem to be very happy learning about how to manage their stress and take care of themselves, which is a holistic nursing principle. So I have made a good start and hope to continue to be an influence for holism. When I retire in a few years I would love to look back to see what was accomplished, and how future nurses have skills for relaxation and stress reduction. Fun!
Tomorrow is the big day. After almost three years since my brain surgery, I am finally going back to work full time. I am nervous about the fatigue that is my companion. Generally, if I don’t meditate in the afternoon, I am dragging and can’t concentrate. I also do much better if I meditate every morning. So I need to squeeze these things into my new schedule, along with tai chi and the weight lifting I recently started doing. I figured out a way to hang a curtain on my office window so I can draw the curtain and meditate in my office. I’ll just put a Do Not Disturb sign on my door. I can do this! Why ? I just want to prove to myself that I can work full time. In addition, I just love working with nursing students. Last week I went to a baby shower for one of my students who graduated in 2008. I don’t usually keep in touch, but she is also a friend of my son, and a wonderful person, so we have kept in touch over the years. When I arrived, another former student was there. It was so fun getting reacquainted and to see where their lives have taken them. It reminded me how rewarding my occupation is. It’s been almost 20 years since I taught them, and they still remember the quick lesson I taught about how to stop negative thoughts (which lead to negative emotions which lead to stress) by using a simple phrase: “Cancel, Cancel.” So I wrote cancel cancel on a diaper. When the baby comes perhaps if she’s feeling down and reaches for that diaper, it will make a difference. I really love teaching. I come in contact with good, determined, caring people every day. I can’t imagine my life without teaching. I hope I make a difference, because my students definitely make a difference in my life. Like I often tell them, “Thanks for being my teacher.”