Tuesday, November 25, 2008


"Zippy" November 22, 2008 by Bill Griffith

Spin /SPIN/ VERB to contemplate on a subject in a negative manner which could lead to needless anxiety and worry. Synonym for “beating a dead horse”

In a rare moment of lucidity, my psychotic ex-girlfriend, aptly pointed out my penchant for this sort of spinning. Admittedly, it was my hobby. I’m not as prone to spinning as I once was and now it resembles a slow twirl versus a vortex of self recrimination and regret. It’s more like wandering in a circle. This week I have been wandering around in my head. Aimelessly, I might add and I find myself listlessly staring into space. This would be all well and good if I were say Elizabeth Gilbert in India. But I’m not a wealthy and self-indulgent writer. Nope just a self-indulgent wanna be. Eating in Italy, meditating in India and fucking off in Bali isn’t in my future. Can you tell I don’t think much of this book? I loved it when I read it but I‘ve had almost a year to consider it and now I think it‘s dreck.

Saturday, I was reminded how much I dislike this book. I was helping a patient--easily the angriest woman in the world-- wash her hair. Some of her anger is understandable: she suffers from both chronic pain and is disabled. However, X is more debilitated emotionally than physically but that‘s another story and a HIPPA violation. She is bed bound and it was tricky to set up the room so I could create a sink of sorts behind the bed. Much to her consternation I did manage to move things around and so I could pour the water, catch the water and wash her hair, away from a sink or a shower. It was a relief for me to slow down for a few minutes and despite her grumbling protests, X appreciated the attention.

I‘m such a Piscean creature so water always settles me and even through the gloves, the water trickling over my fingers was calming. As I washed her hair, my free floating ire was falling away and the room took on a Zen like silence. (Whenever this happens with a patient, I’m about to have an epiphany or learn a lesson.) I’m pouring water over her head and meditatively massaging shampoo into her thinning hair, when I saw it: Eat, Pray, Love on her bedside table. The Zen left me. I felt my eyes roll and I sighed.

“Oh, I bet you can really relate to Gilbert’s angst ridden drivel?” I smirked, my voice dripping with sarcasm because I was the second angriest woman in the world.

“God, don’t get me started. She should trade places with me for five minutes. This--all of this--would make her long for her ‘loveless marriage’. And we would never have to hear about how much she hated to meditate ever again.“, She spat back. *

This week, I have mulled over many parts of the time I spent with X and this conversation came back to me again and againa because I think about trading places with other people, a lot. It's a terrible habit and some days envy moves to bitterness. Which is pointless for so many reasons. I believe the dis-ease of bitterness can put the body in harms way and lead to illness. It’s also pointless from a more pedantic point of view. We see other people’s lives only from a single dimension. We can’t see history or fight their internal battles. Usually, the people who spawn the dreaded bitterness are strangers, usually imaginary friends. I do think there is a fine line between wanting a life like someone else’s and wanting to trade with them. Wanting a life that looks like someone else’s can be a creative start. If I'm not mistaken part of Gilbert's appeal is just this.

For years, I wanted my life to be just like my dear friend A’s, who is a remarkable woman; she is extraordinarily talented, drop dead funny, creative, a great mom, intelligent and gorgeous. If I didn’t love her so much, I would hate her. She was also married to The Perfect Man. He too, was funny, smart, good looking and very successful (whatever). Sometimes, I’m not really quick on the uptake and it took about 10 years to see the cracks in that myth I had written about Mr. Asshat Esq. He traded her in on a foreign model. Now she is navigating the unsure waters of being single in her fifties. Damn. No thanks. I mean it was enough to navigate being single--and embracing the fact I‘m a lesbian--in my forties. But to do it again? Um…No. Besides, if my wrinkle in the time space continuum occurred and I had stepped into her life, I wouldn’t have had the privilege of watching her grow the last two years. And what pure grace that has been, too! I know sometimes she is awash in bitterness because her life doesn’t look the way she mapped it. Does anyone’s? I mean really. When I was thirty, if you had told me in seventeen years I would be divorced and in love with a woman; I would have done the Elaine thing: slapped your shoulder and said: “Get out!”

I do find myself scratching my head when I look at my map. In 2002, I discovered the map was upside down. Of course, I spent time rolling around in bitterness. Now I avoid what ifs and regrets. Isn't that why I spent thousands on therapy? My baseline happiness quotient doesn't call for regret, either. A delightful friend pointed out an upside down map turns hills into lush valleys. I threw away my map this week because I'm sick of trying to plot out the details of my life. Especially, when what happens is a million times more delightful than the plans I make.

I’m thankful, I don’t have to leave home to find myself. I’ve been here all along and I don’t really need a map. Besides, I will miss something surprising and wonderful if I continue to look down at the map. Rascal Flatts says it best ". . .thankful for the tears I've cried with every stumbled step that led to you and got me here, right here. . . "

*please say a prayer of peace for this woman. She has so much left to offer this world and my prayer is she discovers this before it is too late.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Derange pas ta tendresse

"Don't break your tenderness"
As a romantic, I would like to think Kerouac murmured these words to Neal Cassadyduring a passionate encounter. It has become one of my favorite quotes and this photo is a favorite from our weekend in Austin. The day promised to be hot without slipping to that cloying oppressive heat central Texas is known for. Thanks to the Artygirlz, this challenge gave me a chance to rummage through my files and enjoy our trip all over again.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Reporting For Duty

Nineteen years ago, I probably looked down at my rounding belly and said: “In eight short months, you will arrive!” Today, I found myself saying: “In eight short months you will be leaving home.” And to be perfectly cliché, I then found myself musing out loud how the time had passed so quickly although their were moments in his infancy and boyhood that felt like years. The paradox of motherhood. One of many.

I’m not sure why it hit me between the eyes today that Wally will be shipping out in eight months. And it isn't like he will be gone for a week or two but for three months, then a year and after that? Who knows. He will belong to the navy. At first I thought he joined impulsively as some sort of revenge because I’m obviously a poor money manager and didn’t save 80 grand for the college of his choice. A school--I hasten to add--that wouldn’t accept him even if he were waving the cash outside their gates. Yea gods we had heated discussion about his lassitude in school. Wally isn’t a stupid kid, he just isn’t that into school. Over the last month he has finally accepted this and carefully considered all the military branches and chose the Navy.

How ironic we considered immigrating to Canada to avoid the United States military machine way back in ‘91. Now I’m proud he will be a part of the very thing we wanted to escape. Wally even knows what he wants to do after boot camp. He wants to work with the Marines and special ops as a corpsman as a medic. Of course, he is going for some testosterone Play Station job he couldn't’t be content with a safe Mom-friendly job, on a base, away from the shooting and bombs. Nope, he wants to “play in the sandbox with the Marines”. (I do know some of the lingo) He leaves in eight months. Leaves home. Goes away. Leaves.

I suppose the grief that is sitting in the back of my throat, threatening to spill out of my eyes and onto my cheeks at any given moment is in part due to my mother’s death. I must say good bye to my boy in eight months. How exquisite it’s almost as long as my pregnancy.

This morning, I was graced with the rare opportunity to spend time with him before school so we went to the very loud and very crowded Starbucks across the street from the school. That he wasn‘t embarrassed to be seen with me on his turf speaks to his new found maturity. I quizzed him why he was joining the military. I was afraid he was going to tell me he couldn't’t wait to get away from me because he was sick of my bitching about his deadbeat father. He spared me that humiliation and explained to me he knew the only school we could afford was the commuter college in town; he also maturely admitted even though he will be 19, he knows he isn't ready for college. And then he said these magic words: “No offense mom but I’m ready to leave home. I need to leave home. It’s time.”

The loudest Starbucks in the whole world was suddenly dead silent except for my son’s sincere intonation of those very important words. After taking a deep and steadying breath, I quietly explained to him how proud I was of him; how this was the moment healthy parents worked towards. “From the day we brought you home from the hospital, I knew and hoped we would have this conversation. Of course you are ready to leave home. As you should be.”

Although I have been whining how horrible he as treated all of us the last six months, I'm still sad. Until last Tuesday, I was counting down the days to his 19th birthday because I could legally inform his father "due to Wally's attitude and behavior, he was no longer welcome in *my* home." But he is a different boy man since he decided to sign his contract. Wally is calmer and seems at peace; no longer picking at Beav or treating me disrespectfully. He is holding his head higher, looking us straight in the eye when we speak to him. Wally has a purpose.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Swinging the lamp while I adjust my cap and hear you rate your pain on a scale of one through 10

I started this blog as a creative lark and when I was considering some of the things I could blather on about, my calling was one of them. I could write about being a nurse! And I love being a nurse! I am proud to be a nurse!. . .Yay! . . .er…um…no. To begin with HIPPA makes nurse blogging tricky and I‘m too lazy for smoke and mirrors. Besides that, there is so much more to me than RN. But this week I have decided to put on my cap because a new set of flaming hoops of fire regulations are in town and they are shaking my confidence a bit. I’ve been a nurse for a long time and it takes a lot to shake my self confidence but every so often it happens. My latest dose of humility is this list: The Twenty-Eight Never Events or things that should never happen to a patient. And if they happen, the government and insurance companies can refuse to pay. Mind you, the majority of events on the list are heinous events and breathtaking in their degree of neglect and--dare I say--malpractice it would take for them to even occur. The list scares me, not because I’m afraid of perpetrating one of these events but rather what if I forget to record the measures taken to prevent the event and it happens anyhow? ( Nosocomial infections and falls are the two that freak me out) I do believe this list of events will only make facilities better and nurses will rise to the occasion and become even more efficient in the delivery of safe care. However, I think it is time for the patient to take some responsibility and I have designed a list of twenty-eight things that should never happen to me again or never happen to me in the first place, while I’m on duty. I haven’t decided what the penalty. A begrudging reluctance to take care of the offending party or parties will serve as the penalty.

Never Events According To Edgy June Cleaver* **

1. Laying in your hospital bed, call light in hand , screaming at me as I walk down the hall: “Nurse! Nurse! Nurse!” The more grievous version of this is “Girl! Girl! Girl!”
2. Referring to me as “my girl” or “my little helper.” (is this how you speak to your attorney, accountant or doctor?) I’m almost 50 years old, I haven’t been a girl in a long time.
3. Calling me ugly names because I won’t give you pain medicine more than 15 minutes before they are due.
4. Threatening to have me fired or sued or bought before the state board because I won’t violate HIPPA laws and explain to you over the phone what‘s wrong with your best friend since the third grade.
5. Visitors asking me for “some of the good stuff you just gave him, you know that Dilaudid stuff”
6. Patients or visitors calling me hot and are then upset I don’t think it’s funny or sweet or an enticing invitation.
7. Asking me to baby sit your children, in your hospital room.
8. Asking me to listen to your loved ones heart, lungs, or examine that big growth on the side of their leg . Please don’t embarrass yourself with an angry and insulted response when I suggest a trip to a healthcare provider.
9. Patients or visitors who hit, punch or slap me. Or even attempt it for that matter. You will get to meet a nice police officer if this happens.
10. Patients or visitors touching me in a sexually inappropriate manner. Again, you get to meet a nice police officer.
11. Proclaiming I am a bad nurse because I do not--off the top of my head--know the results of your procedures or tests. Chances are I do know the results but am not a liberty to give you bad news.
12. Calling me--again--three minutes after calling me for pain meds to remind me it‘s time for your pain meds. I’m in the med room getting them for you because I don’t make it a habit of carrying vials of dilaudid in my pockets.
13. Patients or visitors who become angry and don’t understand the necessity of keeping my back and my coworkers back’s safe when we seek help from others to move or reposition them.
14. Patients or visitors who bring their dogs onto the unit. If I had my way everyone could bring their dog to the hospital for a visit. For that matter Kipper would come to work every day.
15. Calling 911 from your room because your nurse is late with your meds.
16. Husbands/boyfriends who ask the labor nurse when their wife/girlfriend is “gonna be able to fuck again” while the obstetrician is repairing a fourth degree tear.
17. Do not balk at my gloves when I must touch you. It is an unfortunate and necessary evil.
18. Unless you are under the age of 15 you may never call your father “Daddy” in my presence. This squicks me out more than sputum.
19. Insist on toileting your 80 year old mother and you are a 60 year old son. This is next to sputum and just before Daddy in the squick department.
20. Threaten to sue me because I won’t give you q2H meds every hour.
21. Calling me a bitch under any circumstances. I may be one but you don’t own the special privilege of calling me by this pet name.
22. Constantly reminding me you have a husband/wife/cousin/uncle/father/sister/brother/aunt/mother whatever who is an important politician/business leader/attorney/judge in town.
23. Throw things at me: particularly full urinals or full water pitchers.
24. Accusing me of being forgetful or stupid if I check your armband every time I give you medicine or perform a treatment.
25. Bringing your booze from home. I realize our palliative hooch isn’t as good as yours but I can’t let you have it. But it beats the Hell out of DT’s.
26. Bringing your hunting knife of pepper spray with you to the hospital. It unnerves me to find them when I change your bed linens.
27. Asking me to not make rounds at 0200 because your husband is sleeping on the cot and he gets grumpy if he is awakened. (I’ll speak to your baby about this in the nursery.)
28. Shouting at me for any reason unless you are deaf and can’t hear yourself or are bereft and angry after hearing dire news.

*I have been a nurse for 25 years and some of these things have happened to me and some of them were witnessed. Please know this list is half tongue-in-cheek and I am not some sort of uncompassionate battle ax who needs to retire.

**If you are demented, these Never Events do not apply to you.
Cloris Leachman's brilliant Nurse Diesel comes to me by way of images.andale.com Thank you!