Saturday, February 25, 2012

Unofficial Day 1 of My Happiness Project - Reclaiming My Space

Although the official start of my project is March 1st, I felt the urge to do some things today. March is "Create Energy" and part of that is to clean out the clutter in my life. So... I thought I'd start there.

For a while now I've felt stuck in my space - unable to let go and move forward. Someone I care about lived with me for a few months and when he left, I have had the hardest time reclaiming my apartment, especially my bedroom. I've held on to his energy here because I enjoyed his company and how his presence filled up the apartment. Since he left, I've spent a lot of time sleeping on my couch (which is a futon). I fall asleep to the tv because it keeps me company, but I also don't think that I get the best sleep (another small piece to my March Project). My apartment has been a mess. I simply haven't cared enough for me... of me... to do anything about it. My space has always represented my state of mind; when my world is going well, everything is organized and in its place. When things aren't going so well, my place reflects that. Initially I think it was due to the fact that I didn't want to have to deal with spreading out and filling my closets and such with all of my stuff; I didn't want to acknowledge that he wasn't here, but mostly... I simply didn't want to deal with it.

It's created a block for me, however. I love to entertain. I love to have friends over. I love having an organized place. Prior to S getting his own place, I had loved my apartment. I loved the energy that I had created here. I need to reclaim that feeling. I need to remember that I am complete already and that this hollow feeling will go away... and that my apartment doesn't need to reflect those emotions. I need to make it my sanctuary again, instead of the place I HAVE to spend time because I've no where else to go.

So, today was the day that I began to reclaim my space. I thought at first that I'd start with my bedroom but I just couldn't quite go there today. I rearranged my living room instead. It's now completely different from how it was. It feels more open... but less intimate... less cozy. But, I still have some work to do and perhaps that will change as I get further organized and uncluttered through the month. I definitely have room to exercise, though!

Tomorrow morning I'll tackle my bedroom. I bought some new, bright, "happy" sheets (orange!) and some wonderful new memory foam pillows. I might pick up a new tv, for my bedroom, and I'll eventually purchase a simple dresser.  I'm going to create a menu for the coming week (Happiness Project: make friends with food and eat a meal I prepare 18 of 21 meals a week) so that I can go grocery shopping on Monday after work.

Whew... It's going to be okay. I'm going to be okay. I repeat that over and over... daily, hourly.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Strange Life

I drove home tonight to the start of large snowflakes falling from the sky. Everything was so quiet and peaceful. The flakes were highlighted in the street lights and I thought about loss and how short life is.

Today I let go of someone I love. Tonight I may have saved a patient.

"M" was found in the bathroom unresponsive, purple, with copious amounts of mucus coming from her mouth. She was unresponsive to everything except painful stimuli. "M" has a DNR in place so I took her vital signs (78/42, 94.6, 61, 11, 53% on RA) and determined that she was not likely to make it and that we should begin comfort care. I had the CNA's put her in bed, change her shirt and raise the head of the bed. I asked them to reapply her O2 but to increase it to 4L. After calling the family and advising them of the situation, I went back to check on "M." Though still mostly unresponsive, "M" was able to respond to her name and though she couldn't yet speak, her vital signs were slowly improving. Her blood sugar was high but that was likely do to the stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system and compensation. By the time I left my shift, her vital signs were normal and she was fully responsive. When asked what she remembered she said that she remembered feeling "murky" but had no memory of getting out of bed and attempting to get to the bathroom.

I am lying in bed, watching the snow fall and thinking about how strange life can be... of how I lost someone and saved someone in the same day. I grieve and celebrate with the same breath. I cry tears of sadness and tears of joy.

I am grateful for what I have and yet long for so much more.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Happiness Project

I think... I think... I finally have the months down for my project. I'm still undetermined for December and January and so those topics or what I do in those months may end up changing but here's what I have so far...

March – Create Energy
  • Exercise 5 days a week
  • Clean out the clutter
  • Eat at home or a home cooked meal 18 out of 21 meals per week
April – Honor Friendships
  • Organize a scavenger hunt
  • Organize a monthly improv group
  • Gather and celebrate birthdays
  • Make 1 new friend
May – Bring in Music
  • Start cello lessons
  • Discover a new band or musician
  • Listen to music (without the TV on) 4 hours a week at home
June – Celebrate your uniqueness 
  • Spend an hour a week doing research on
  • Write a poem a week
  • Find 3 heroes and discover the qualities that you have that they have and what qualities you want but that don’t have… yet.
July – Be Playful
  •  Swing at a park
  • Color in coloring books
  • Take a painting class
  • Host a Murder Mystery dinner
August – Explore your backyard
  • Trip to Yellowstone
  • Do a local tour of Denver
  • Find a new cafĂ©
  • Eat at two new restaurants
September – Pursue a Passion
  • Complete a sprint triathlon
  • Carry your camera and take more photos (1 a day)
October – Celebrate the Power of Words
  • Write a novel in 30 days
  • Create a quote journal
  • Read Writing Down The Bones and Bird by Bird
November – Give Thanks
  • Do New Moon and Full Moon Rituals
  • Say “thank you” 2 times a day
  • Create a gratitude journal
December – Create Tradition
  • Go for a walk on Christmas day
January – Bring in the New – Open to New Experiences
February – Be Loving
  • Give 3 compliments a day
  • Celebrate Valentine’s Day
March – Boot Camp

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Oh No!

I've already mentioned that I'm a nurse and today I had one of those moments when you shake your head and think "really?!?!"

We have a resident who was wonderful. EVERY time I saw her, I simply wanted to smile. She was the sweetest person there. About a week ago we discovered that she had gone into liver failure and she was quickly put on hospice. I was working in a different area and hadn't heard much about her situation. Today I heard that she had gone down hill fast and was now entirely bedridden. Fearing that she would pass over the weekend (it's my off weekend)... or even this evening, I kept reminding myself to go over to say "goodbye" to her.

A little before lunch, I decided to head over. I walked into her room and her skin was pretty yellow but she's dying so that's not entirely unusual. I ran my hand over her hair and said, "oh... (insert name)." And, as I'm looking at her, I realize that she's not breathing. I reach for her wrist and don't feel a pulse; so I grab my stethoscope and listen... nope, no heartbeat. I go out of the room and report to the charge nurse on that side (I was charge in the other area) that she's passed. Fortunately, the charge was already aware of that and she had JUST passed, literally minutes before I went in.

I'm terribly heartbroken because she was such a wonderful, sweet lady. At the same time, I find humor in the fact that I'm in there, stroking her hair and getting ready to say "goodbye" only to discover that she'd already gone. Really?!?! Though I've always had a bit of a twisted sense of humor, I find that it's become enhanced since working in the medical field. But, I guess you have to find humor in sad situations or it would all just wear you down.

... Goodbye, D! Rest in peace! You and your wonderful smile and sweet disposition will be thoroughly missed!!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Valentine's Day

Ahhh... Valentine's Day - the evil nemesis of most single women. That day that reminds you once a year that YOU ARE ALONE!! The social reminder that you are unloved and perhaps... just maybe, unlovable! Heaven forbid!

I am one of those souls that has never... not once... not in the 39 years of her life, had a date on Valentine's Day.

My twenties were the worst... that longing for someone who thought I was special on that one day. Who thought enough to make a special effort for me. Ahhh... how I longed for that... And, of course, that was the period when many of my friends were beginning to couple up and some were starting to have children. It all combined to enhance the absolute loneliness that I spent the majority of my twenties feeling. And it helped me develop a special sort of cynicism towards all things Valentine's. The commercials were the worst to me... those awful prove-your-love-by-purchasing-expensive-jewelry ones that guilt men into spending more money then they likely should. Plus, it perpetuates the idea that women only value a man for money and what they can give them, which is such a false (at least to amazing, healthy women who value more than the next pay raise) stereotype. GAH!! But, that's a whole other gender dynamic post. 

My thirties were easier. I had amassed a collection of friends who were thirty-something and mostly single. We would all celebrate in a large 10-12 person group (single and coupled-alike), celebrating our platonic love for each other by eating an expensive meal at a nice steak house. It was always fun to make a reservation for... 12. So entirely unexpected and it felt wonderful thinking about how they were going to find a spot for us amongst the two-tops. It was healing on my ravaged self-esteem. Even though I wasn't going to make love to one of them by candle light later that evening, they all thought I was special enough to spend the evening with. And we laughed and celebrated love in the broadest sense of the word. Diversity... such an amazingly, wonderful reality.

I thought I had made peace with February 14th. Perhaps not so much...

As previously mentioned, I'm working on starting my own Happiness Project. I had toyed briefly with trying to get my act together enough to start in February and my initial thought was that I'd make it the month of "Be Loving." I would focus on the positive of people, gather everyone's birthday to begin my year (and hopefully beyond) of acknowledging birthdays, give more compliments and send a Valentine's Day card to many of my friends. Well, starting this February was a bit too ambitious but I still wanted to let those I care about and that I don't always have regular contact with know that I was thinking about them and sending them love. Off to the store I trot... gather up pretty cards and pink and red note cards. I pull out my little heart hole punch and set to work. I had a grand time thinking about my friends opening their mail box to discover a Valentine's card sent just for them! It made me smile and feel happy... just the thought. I mean, really, when was the last time you received a Valentine's Day card... elementary school?? And that may have been only because Little Billy's mom made him fill out a card for everyone in the class. So, I imagined how I would feel if I opened my own box to the tangible knowledge that someone cared enough of me to actually go buy a stamp and put something in writing and deliver it to antiquated but reliable USPS, instead of simply sending an email or posting a general "Happy Valentine's Day" on Facebook.

Today I dropped off 68 cards in the mail... two of which will be traveling overseas and won't make it in time... but will be a late surprise. And it occurred to me... this is going to be another year where I spend Valentine's Day without the absolute knowledge that I'm loved by someone special who thinks I'm equally special. It made me tired. I wondered when... and will... it ever happen for me. Oh... don't get me wrong.. I KNOW that I have a large and fantastic group of friends that are sending me lovely thoughts 365 days a year. But, let's be honest here... it's simply not the same. It's just not. And I am so, so tired of being alone.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Ode to a Breathtakingly Beautiful Person

My grandma and I - early 1970's
February is the month of love and has inspired me to tell you about the most amazing person in the whole wide world... my grandma.

Born Mary Lucille Condo, on December 5th, this beautiful baby would grow up to be one of the most influential people in my life. Known to those that loved her as "Lucy," she wouldn't climb great mountains, attend a prestigious college or solve some world crisis. She wouldn't stand up for human rights or teach me how to be a strong feminist... She would simply love me unconditionally; and that made all the difference.

When she was in her early 30's it was discovered that she had a brain tumor. At that time, the removal was comparable to a partial lobotomy and so the woman that I knew growing up was very Forrest Gump-like. Her world was simple and she saw beauty, kindness and generosity in the simplicity. Despite being married for a time to an abusive man who likely devastated her emotionally, she always found a way to forgive. She didn't let him destroy her soul... her kindness. When he finally left her with nothing, she became a dishwasher at a Taco House and because she couldn't afford a car, she walked, every day, to and from work. A few years later, she became a dishwasher at a nursing home, where she remained for roughly 25 years. She never missed a day of work. She found ways to compensate for her short term memory impairment. She wouldn't get a checking account until the last 4 years of her life and so to manage her money, she would get envelops and put money away each paycheck for each of her bills. She was creative in that way.

When I was little, as so many kids caught in a divorce are, I became the casualty in my parents' battle and my grandma was my safe haven. There were a number of years when I lived with her growing up. I remember her intense love of all things sweet and her particular love of Count Chocula, root beer and Winchell's donuts. I remember her smile and how, as I grew older, she initiated more hugs and kisses. How every Friday for years I would take the afternoon off so that I could go to Pizza Hut where we would sit in the same booth, with the same waiter, eating the same food... but she loved it. And, I loved spending my Fridays with her. She never spouted great words of advise or awed me with her profound insight... but she listened. And she taught me how to listen. She loved to buy me shoes. It didn't matter whether I needed something else, it was always shoes she wanted to buy me. I remember her wearing her light blue jeans and moss green t-shirt - her "day off" clothes. I remember her keeping a bag of socks with holes in them because someday she planned on darning them.

One August evening, while walking home from work, she was hit by a car and four days later passed away. I remember feeling hollow for quite a while. I don't remember the day of her death because I choose to celebrate her life and the wonderful gifts that she gave to everyone.

And so, Grandma, this is my ode to you... the most amazing person I've known. In the words of Natalie Merchant...

Kind and Generous

You've been so kind and generous
I don't know how you keep on giving
For your kindness I'm in debt to you
For your selflessness, my admiration
And for everything you've done

You know I'm bound...
I'm bound to thank you for it

You've been so kind and generous
I don't know how you keep on giving
For your kindness I'm in debt to you
And I never could have come this far without you
So for everything you've done

You know I'm bound...
I'm bound to thank you for it

I want to thank you
For so many gifts
You gave with love and tenderness
I want to thank you

I want to thank you
For your generosity
The love and the honesty
That you gave me

I want to thank you
Show my gratitude
My love and my respect for you
I want to thank you

I want to...

Thank you
Thank you
Thank you
Thank you
Thank you
Thank you