Friday, January 26, 2018

A new New Year

This is a screen shot from a conversation I recently had with one of the physicians at our hospital. I can't share any more of it, though I wish I could.

The year started out rough. I work in a profession where dealing with pain, grief, and loss is a daily reality, but at the hospital we rang in the new year with some particularly miserable, devastating pains and losses, some of which hit very close to home.  In addition, we were dealing with some significant frustrations at home, trying to figure out a way forward with businesses and health and projects and all that.  My mom got quite sick and ended up in the hospital for a few days (she's doing much better).  So when I went to start a whole day of chores that was supposed to include about a dozen loads of laundry and my washer instantly flooded the floor, I didn't even try to deal with it. I was exhausted and worn out, so I just went and sat on my bed for about 15 minutes and cried.  Not about the washer, really (that's more likely to make me annoyed or angry), but more over feeling like everything was broken.

It passed. This last week, I was enjoying a shared moment of pure joy at 3am with some of my favorite coworkers, and I looked around the room and thought about how very fortunate I am.  There is never a night I look at the staffing and think, "Ugh."  Every single night, I'm happy to be working with whoever is there.  Our staff is small--we have about 11 nurses total who work night shift--so even one tense relationship could make work a lot more work, but we all enjoy working together.  It isn't uncommon to have weeks where we end up spending more waking hours with each other than with our families. And its hard to imagine any other group of people that would make that OK, but these people are some of my favorite humans. They care about their patients. They care about each other. They are incredibly fun to be around.

And it isn't just our nurses and aides.  When one of the losses hit us early in the year, our HR manager showed up with treats and breakfast stuffs early one Saturday morning.  She didn't have to do that; the hospital didn't buy those, she did, because she knew we were hurting, and she wanted to something. Cards and donations flowed from the staff to those most deeply affected.  It reminded me of a night when I was at the bedside of a critical patient, trying to mix an IV med and get blood infusing as well, and a doctor was right beside me, taking a set of vitals and helping me re-position a miserable patient. I wonder how many hospitalists know the CNAs by name?  How many hospitals do you think have an ER nurse who will occasionally grill for the whole staff at 3am out of the back of his truck (or have an ER doc who buys all the meat so that that BBQ can happen)?

I have lived in towns of various sizes, but I came from a small place--Doug tells me it isn't really a town, but a hamlet--and settled in small places, and always prefer them, because community is at the heart of everything I love. Its possible, of course, to form tight-knit communities in more populous places, but doing so in such places does present more challenges.  When I was visiting my mom, one of her colleagues showed up with dinner for that night--as various coworkers and friends had every night since she got sick.  There were--completely sincere--offers of help in others ways, as well.  Everyone knows her.  She is the sort of person who would rather not tell anyone she was feeling ill, much less advertise it, but her absence is impossible to miss, so help was never asked for, it simply arrived.  The teacher who had showed up during her own lunch break mentioned that she felt like thefts and vandalism and such happened less frequently in small towns, because its very difficult to depersonalize crime: even if you don't know this person directly, she's the aunt of a friend of yours, or the friend of aunt. You are connected in some way to nearly everyone around you. I agreed heartily, and pointed out that it also makes good much easier to do, because we feel that much more responsible to each other.

Be connected to the people around you.  Do what you can to create communities of support, respect, love, and service. January began with difficulty and tragedy, and in that I watched a community of people circling the wagons to buoy up members of that community who were hurting; it peaked with watching that same community comfort and attend to an individual who had no community of his own, giving him comfort and peace; and, as it sneaks away like a thief in the night, I have watched a community celebrate together, magnifying joy for current and expected blessings.  I needed to see all of that to be reminded that, whatever 2018 may bring, we will weather it just fine and find joy in the journey, because we are surrounded and supported by angels on both sides of the veil.

Bring it on.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

On that President Monson obit. . .

There's been a petition going around to attempt to pressure the NYT to present a different obituary for President Monson than the one they published last week.  I didn't sign it.

The NYT knows that many (if not most) LDS individuals don't see the world the way they do, and they made it pretty clear that they find that irritating.  Is it surprising to any one that the staff at the NYT finds LDS doctrinal positions on marriage and Priesthood problematic?  Protesting that they tried to reduce a man of tremendous charity and personal integrity to someone of no more significance or virtue than Fidel Castro will not change the way anyone at the NYT sees President Monson, or our doctrine.  Let that rest with them.

Is anything they said untrue?  In the face of public criticism, loud protest, and clear disdain from people of the mindset prevalent at places like the NYT, President Monson continued to declare and defend the Lord's doctrine, with kindness and respect, but without apology.

He is the one who told us
Dare to be a Mormon
Dare to stand alone
Dare to have a purpose firm
Dare to make it known.

Whatever their intentions, the NYT has paid our dear prophet the profound compliment of declaring to the world that he lived up to those words.  President Monson exemplified the standard of moral leadership revealed to another prophet, who was weathering persecution far more intense than a petulant literary swipe: "No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned."  That's the spirit we ought to respond in--that's the only spirit that can really change anything and move forward the work of Him who President Monson so boldly and humbly served.  Be bold, defend the Lord's doctrine in spite of those who would see it swept away.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Really This Time

Less than a dozen blog posts last year. Less than 3 dozen the two year previous to that. And probably a third of those have something to do with how I don't write enough or resolving that I'm going to write more.

A lot of that has to do with the pace I was maintaining much of that time.  I was in school for four years, and while nursing school isn't exactly med school, for an undergraduate degree it is intensive and time-consuming.  Add illnesses, injuries, adjustments to medications, juggling all the kids, and the hubs trying to get a business going, and there just aren't a lot of hours left anywhere in the week.

But the reality is, we make time for the things that we really want to do, don't we?  All the things listed above do in fact take a lot of time.  But I found time for other things. I haven't found time for writing, at least publicly.

If I'm being honest, a lot of that has to do with a severely reduced desire to share, which itself has myriad causes.  Being both shy and introverted by nature, it is not a natural thing for me to be an "open book", and while I worked really hard at coming across as open for other people's sake, I often failed at actually being open anywhere other than in my blog and at the pulpit.  But I did try very hard to be genuinely open with the most important people in my life.

Part of the reticence is just born out of shifting in how my hours are spent. I spend 36-48 hours a week at a job where I am "on" nearly the whole time, and then I still have to be "on" for my kids when I'm home and they're awake.  After all that time giving energy to other people, I don't feel like I have anything left over.  I very seldom socialize anymore, which I need to be better at making time and energy for, because I have a lot of really wonderful people in my life that I would like to get to know better or simply spend more time with.

I've also been disappointed, frustrated, and increasingly cynical, which has reinforced my natural inclination to withhold.  I've seen trusts broken, I've been surprised by people (which I almost never am) in negative ways;  there are relationships where I've given up making much effort, after feeling like massive amounts of effort I put in over years was not only unappreciated and unhelpful, but has felt counterproductive or dismissed.  I've had moments where I felt like, after years of putting myself out there--far more than I am naturally or easily inclined to do--the other person never actually saw me.  I figured out by the time I was a teenager that it is incredibly difficult to see someone as they see themselves, so much more to see them as they really are.  Most of the time we see a version of them filtered through a shadow our own presence and prejudices cast over them; but I have had enough experiences where I have had the blessing of seeing someone through the Lord's eyes, at least to some degree, or, with His help, could see them as they saw themselves, and I came to expect that the people I invested the most trust and time and effort in could see me that way.  In some cases, I felt like they had very little desire to even try.

I don't have any anger, or really even feel hurt by anyone.  I just want to retreat, I feel uninterested in giving more of myself, of exposing my thoughts or feelings, any more than is absolutely necessary.  I've seen the reduced rate of growth in myself, of which the retreat is a partial cause.  Generally, the Lord has had to nudge me out of my comfort zone a little bit in life in order to help me stretch and rise to the occasion.  I don't think he has in many areas the last few years, and I think its because He knows I haven't been up for the challenge (which is no one's fault but my own, and the fact that I haven't been pushed in a way that would make me feel like just quitting altogether is, as far as I'm concerned, simply further evidence of the Lord's tremendous mercy and love, however undeserving of it I may be).

But the fact is that 2017 was quite good to us.  Finishing school, changing the business plan again, getting to see Brad sealed to his sweet bride and become a father and a husband all at once, buying a house, and hundreds of little blessings in between.  There is more learning to obtain, more blessings to enjoy, and more blessings to give if I am willing to be more open and make time for the things the Lord expects me to do.  So I hope to see you here more often in 2018.