Sunday, July 14, 2019

Coming Back

It's been a while since I've written anything.  I'm not really sure why, but writing has been hard lately.  I've sat down to write this post many times and then stopped-- I've deleted words and retyped them, erased the whole thing and started from scratch.

Before I was ever a nurse, I sat in a classroom at Cape Fear Community College in a course for nursing assistants that I was taking for the summer to jump start my nursing career.  Our instructor, a woman known as "Hosk," had all of us go around the room to introduce ourselves and state one or two things that we love to do in our free time.  After everyone had shared their various passions and interests, Hosk said, "now I want you to remember this day.  Remember the things that you just shared that you love to do.  If you find that you're going more than a few days at a time without doing those things, you need to change something about what you're doing and re-evaluate.  Make sure you take care of yourself as you enter the healthcare profession."  I was 18 years old and so naive.  Of course I would always make time for things I love-- who wouldn't? I couldn't imagine what that life would look like.

Fast forward 11 years.  I know exactly what it looks like now to live without doing the things you love every day. I am now almost as burnt out as they come as a healthcare professional, at the ripe age of 29.  I don't recognize myself anymore physically or mentally; I say things I don't mean and have an attitude that's just garbage most days when I am at work.  I get easily annoyed and roll my eyes at the smallest of things.  It has taken using other people as my mirror to make me realize this, when I see someone's response to something I have said or when a colleague doesn't understand why I am so annoyed about something.

Healthcare has certainly burned me out.  I brought everything I had to it as a young nurse; I worked the long hours and the night shifts.  I worked the holidays and the rotating weekends and missed so many celebrations and time with family.  I stayed late charting and came home to eat dinner at 9:30 some nights.  I skipped lunches at work, skipped bathroom breaks and worked so so hard to keep my patients safe.

In my role as a provider now, I thought maybe things would be different.  And in some ways, they are.  I take regular bathroom breaks now, sometimes even extra ones just to get a quiet moment away from the questions and pages and phone calls and e-mails.  I eat lunch most days, though sometimes it's at my desk while pouring over labs and trying to figure out what treatments to pursue.  I work longer hours than I did as a nurse-- maybe not in a given day, but in a given week, I work more than full-time hours.  My days are long and made longer by living over an hour from where I work.  I try to set boundaries at work but fail most days.  It seems that as a provider, you're expected to just work constantly all in the name of patient care.  Wouldn't it just be patient abandonment if you didn't?

But my brain is tired.  My body is tired.  My emotions are wrung out.  I feel like a shell of who I was when I went into healthcare.  And when I think back to that day when I started this journey into healthcare, when I named the things I loved to do and promised to make time for them-- I'm sad because I realize I've neglected all of the things that build me up and settle my soul.

I've started reclaiming some of them over the past few months.  I started making it a priority to spend time with the Lord everyday, to get involved with church community again and be in the presence of other believes who are trying to figure all of the mess out.  And I started running again--bought the new running shoes and signed up for the race and built the race plan.  I started reading a few pages from a book each night, even if I can't finish a book in a day like I once could; it helps me to read of far off places or books about bettering oneself for those around you.  And my final claim back on my life is reclaiming my blog and my writing.  Writing is life-giving to me; I still hope to someday write something that I can publish and that people will display on their coffee tables or in their beach bag for their weekend trip.

So, here I am, coming back.  I don't know how much I'll be able to write in this space or what it will look like to be here.  It'll take some time to find my voice again-- who knows if I even write the same anymore, or sound the same? I'm excited for the journey and to step back into something that I love and that the Lord has given me such a passion for.


Sunday, September 16, 2018

On Dreams.

It feels weird to be back in this space writing again; it feels weird to write, if I'm being honest.  I have largely avoided it during the latter half of school, maybe in part due to a perceived lack of time and in part due to a lack of what to say and how to say it.  It's been a lot of avoidance on my part, a lack of desire to confront my feelings and who I've become in recent years. 

I am finally on the other side of graduate school and am at the culmination of all that I have desired.  My career as a nurse practitioner has just begun, and I am lucky to be working with some of the most wonderful geriatricians and geriatric NPs that I could ask for.  It's funny about dreams though.  Dream jobs, specifically.  They have a way of looking really shiny and bright when they are the object of your desire, but then once you're closer up, they're fuzzy, difficult to grasp hold of, blurred.  At first, I thought that maybe dream jobs were just of dreams, not something we were meant to grasp on this side of eternity.  But the more I think about it, the more I realize that just because they are shiny and bright and exactly what you want to be doing, they still require hard work and refinement and a bit of elbow grease.

These days, I spend two hours in my car every day driving to and from my dream job.  Sometimes more than that, if I don't get to leave Indianapolis by a decent time and get caught in terrible traffic.  I always told myself that I would travel two hours every day for a job I loved, but that I would never do it for a job I just felt mediocre about.  I still think I love the job I am doing, but Lord knows it's more difficult than I imagined.

The hardest thing for me is finding my sense of optimism again.  It is disheartening and discouraging every time someone says, "You drive HOW far?" or comments on my drive somehow.  Believe me, it took me a long enough time to convince myself that this drive would be normal; trying to convince others that it's fine takes all of my energy.  When I think about it really, though, the drive isn't half bad.  I actually am growing to love my morning commute-- I sip coffee, listen to an audiobook or podcast, and take the time I need in the morning to prepare for my day.  The evenings are another story-- sometimes I am angry and tired and ready to be home.  But if I can learn to love my morning commute enough, I think I can make it.

But as for my dreams, they live on.  I think I thought of my dreams as a final destination, a landing place for me once I escaped school.  Now, I realize that dreams aren't necessarily a landing spot, but a dynamic journey where you passions are ever-growing and evolving. 

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Girl I Once Was

Do you ever look at yourself in the mirror and barely recognize the person you've become? I feel that way lately.  I am finally on the other side of grad school and half expected to just return to my "old self" after grabbing my diploma, passing boards, and securing a job.  I look back at photos of myself from a few years ago, and I remember how happy and optimistic I felt.  I was excited for the future, for growing up, owning a house, starting a career. 

I looked at a girl in the mirror today who was 40 pounds heavier than the girl I once knew.  And not that my weight defines me, but it certainly says a lot about how I've coped with stress over the past few years.  I miss choosing things that are healthy and good for me. I miss running and training for half marathons.  I miss feeling strong and capable, like I could conquer many things, physically and mentally.  I miss cooking healthy meals.  I have spent a lot of energy worrying over the past few years, and when I worry, I get awfully hungry. 

Aside from physical health, my mental state is not what it was once either.  The happy-go-lucky girl who felt carefree and excited to face each day has been traded in for a glass half-empty, "realistic," downtrodden girl who complains often and fights negative thoughts by the minute. 

What does it take to return to who you once were?  I think for me a lot of it lies in turning back to Jesus and finding identity in Him.  Which, for me, is easier said than done.  I've come to the cross few times in the past year; I still love God and believe in who He is and what He has done for me.  I still revere Him and am in awe of His goodness.  But somewhere along the way, I started focusing on me more and started seeing less of God.  There isn't room for two masters in your life, and I pushed God out as master of mine.  Now, coming back feels like all I can offer are filthy rags, nothing fit for a King. 

Thankfully, that's all that he asks of me.  That I come back and surrender my dirty rags and surrender the self-seeking life I have acquired.  I don't deserve to be welcomed back; none of us do.  But like the father welcomes the prodigal son, the Father welcomes us back with open hands and an open heart.  I do not understand these things, but I know them to be true.  Do you ever wander so far from God that you wonder if even he will recognize you? This is how I feel as of late.  My life is consumed with me, and my heart feels so far from the One who calls me His. 

I suppose this is a rather bleak post to write as my "welcome back" to the world of writing.  But these things are heavy on my heart, and I don't know where to go with them.  I need to sit and faithfully read the words of Truth in my Bible.  And I need to listen to what the Lord asks of me and where He calls.  And I need to pray for a renewed heart, a spirit of repentance, and a way out of this rut that I feel stuck in. 

I pray that if you are in this place, that perhaps we can hook arms and start walking up the path again, closer to light and love.  It has been so very dreary these past many years.  I am hopeful that the bright places are coming into focus once again, and that Jesus will reign once again as Savior and Victor. 

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Art of Self-Care

I've been on a mission to take better care of myself-- my word for this year was bloom, and I've done my best to make sure that I am blooming this year.  There's so many elements of self-care that are specific to each individual, but it's so important to figure out what serves you well in caring for yourself.  I used to think self-care was for people who weren't as busy (LOL) as me, or people who couldn't handle their lives and needed time outs.  Well, it turns out that self-care is important to everyone.  It's essential for your physical, emotional, and mental well-being.  All of us need time outs in the midst of busy lives.  Here's some ways that I've channeled the art of self-care and relaxation in the midst of busy-ness.

1. Drinking more water.  Maybe you're rolling your eyes at this one because you already drink so much water-- but I am not someone who has always selected water as my beverage of choice.  I read recently that instead of just aiming for 64 ounces of water per day, you should really aim for half of your body weight in ounces of water per day.  I'm heavier than I once way and require more than 64 ounces a day to stay well-hydrated.  My hack to drinking more water was choosing a water bottle that I loved and carrying it everywhere with me.  I also write down my water goal at the beginning of each day and mark my progress in a journal that I keep.  Here's the water bottle I love the most.

2. Taking bubble baths.  I have mastered the art of the bubble bath pretty well, and have a myriad of bubble bath supplies that are necessary for a great bubble bath.  From true bubbles to bath salts or bath bombs, I know all the good stuff to use.  It reminds me of an episode of Friends when Chandler walks in on Monica taking a bubble bath and suddenly starts taking them himself-- learning to set the mood, light candles, use the right temperature/bubble combination.  My favorite bath bomb was gifted to me from a friend for my birthday this year but can also be found at Target (see below).  I don't take bubble baths every day but try to take one on my first day off after working a string of long hospital days.  I always do it when my husband isn't home because it's just so much more relaxing when the house is quiet.

Source: Target
The reason I love this so much is because it smells like 
home and the ocean and makes the water turn blue!

3. Journaling.  I wouldn't say I journal like I used to, but I have started a form of bullet journaling that I am really coming to enjoy.  I was inspired by my friend Angela who uses the Panda journal, but there are the essential elements to my journal each day. 
  • A quote for the day (this is the most fun part to me!)
  • Gratitude (expressing gratitude about my life)
  • A sentence about how much water I am going to drink that day
  • A sentence about the exercise I will do that day
  • Three to four items that I MUST accomplish
  • Progress regarding a habit I am working on
  • A list of optional items to do if I get through my MUST list.  
I also try to practice my hand lettering as I write out each thing so that I can work towards being a better calligrapher or handletterer (?).

4. Washing my face.  I try to make it a point to wash my face every day, but I do an even deeper clean of my face using a face mask whenever I take my bubble baths.  My favorite face mask so far is from Lush and stays on for about 15 minutes while I'm soaking and reading a good book.  

Source: Lush

5. Spending time outside.   There's tons of research about how spending time in nature recharges and re-energizes you.  I was never one who loved the outdoors very much, unless you considered lying on the beach to be an outdoor activity.  However, when I started dating my husband, I took an interest in doing the outdoor activities he loves.  I now find comfort and joy in spending time outside and try to go hiking with my husband and dog at least 2-3 times per week.  We have a nearby park with trails that are so beautiful and allow for my anxious dog to run fast and far, and I find that it's soothing for both of us.  

There's so many other things I'm doing for self-care, like writing, reading, disconnecting from social media, decluttering,  waking up earlier, going to bed earlier, eating more vegetables, gardening.  It's so important to take good good care of your mind and body, and I'm learning that it's worth the "time out" from other events on your calendar to do so.  

Hope you're having a good week and finding ways to take care of yourself!


Thursday, August 3, 2017

Morning Pages

One of the authors I love produced a small e-book a few years ago that discussed Julia Cameron's idea of morning pages.  I don't hold true to the real practice of morning pages, but I do enjoy my own little practice of them.  Morning pages is the idea that you wake up early every morning and write, in a stream-of-conscious way, the first 2-3 pages of thoughts you have.  I've been up since 6AM today (praise Jesus-- the past few days I've woken up at 3-4AM--see below on this), so these aren't my first thoughts.  But as I sat down to do homework I felt incredibly antsy and like I needed to write first, so here are my little quips of life lately.

Today is the first day since my wisdom teeth extraction last week when I feel 98% normal.  I thought I was doing pretty well over the weekend but couldn't really eat much.  The past three days I had been having terrible pain that radiated to my ear and head, and I feared that I was developing dry socket.  I tried to "tough it out" but gave in and went to Scott's office yesterday to be seen.  Turns out I was brewing an infection in one of my sockets.  As soon as he cleaned it out, I felt immense relief from the pain.  I'm now irrigating the site with a medicated solution and taking antibiotics for the next few days.  I had been waking up at 3-4AM from pain but was able to "sleep in" until 6 today! Hooray!
I have approximately 1 week left of class for the summer and am looking forward to a two week break from school before things get really crazy for the fall.  Looking at my fall schedule gives me palpitations, and I won't even start stressing about spring yet, but I've heard spring is worse.  But at the end of it all, we will be Greece-bound to de-stress and check out a new part of the world we haven't seen. Can not wait.
Doc is being super anxious today because he was by himself a lot yesterday and hasn't been on a hike in a while (due to previously discussed dental pain).  I'm planning on walking or hiking with him at some point today but in meantime and playing this video for him, which keeps him entertained.
I rode into work with Scott yesterday (~45 minutes from our house) and spent the day at his office after I got evaluated.  I just love his practice and the people there, and I super love the other dentist's wife/office manager.  It is just such a wonderful blessing that he found a great place to work as a dentist. It's also the most fun thing to see the man I've loved since I was 16 doing something he LOVES.  I remember when we met, he actually didn't want a girlfriend because he wanted to focus on getting into dental school.  Fast forward 11 years and he's a real-live dentist and thankfully decided to take me along for the ride.  What a joy it is to see him doing so well and chasing those dreams.
I've been working to lay aside some feelings I have about some missed opportunities for the coming year and am instead trying to focus my efforts on other opportunities ahead. It's tough though, and I'm all kinds of jealous and ugly about certain situations.  I'm working to surrender this, but that's easier said than done sometimes.  Hence, my social media fast.  I wasn't handling anything well while I was pressed against the computer screen looking at what everyone else had going on in their lives.
I miss reading.  I fear that for the next year, my reading will mostly be academic.  I'm so determined to do my best this year and don't think I will have much down time for reading unless it's over holiday breaks, but send your best reading suggestions this way for when I finally find time to read again.
I am anxiously awaiting my favorite season but fear that it will be busier than usual this year.  My one fall joy that I'm looking forward to completely enjoying sans schoolwork is the Kendallville Apple Festival that we attend every year in northern Indiana.  I was scheduled to work that weekend and thankfully found someone to trade weekends with me, so it's something I am SUPER looking forward to.  We also committed a while ago to spending two weekend down in Columbus where Scott works to do some things down there/get to know the town better, so I'm looking forward to that as well.  Columbus is very close to Brown County, and Brown County is my FAVE state park in the fall.  So gorgeous.  It's the essence of fall.

That's all for now, friends.  Thanks for letting me get my antsy writer's energy out in these pseudo-morning pages.  Doc is crying and I must go turn on the "bird videos for cats" for him so I can get some schoolwork done.

Hope you have a great rest of your week!


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

On living the life in front of you

Positano, Italy

"I think about how valuable it is to live the life in front of you, regardless of how tempting it is to press your face to the glass of other people's lives online, even though doing that is so much safer and so entirely addictive." -Shauna Niequist, Bread and Wine

If you've known me any amount of time, you likely know that one of my greatest struggles is comparison.  This quote from Shauna Niequist feels like something she is speaking directly to me.  I struggle with living the life in front of me because I am so worried about how it holds up to what everyone around me is doing, what their lives look like.  Social media eats away at me in that way.  Posts about traveling the world, pregnancy, new babies, big houses, new jobs all run together and speak lies to me about how my life isn't valuable.

I have a deep fear that everyone else is moving along at just the right pace and that I am incredibly behind.  And what I'm left with is a shell of a person who can't enjoy the present because she's so worried that her life isn't what it should be.

I'm blessed to be married to a man who doesn't really care what others think of him or his life.  He lives in a bold way, blazing a path ahead of him and making decisions based on what is important to him, rather than what is important to other people or what others will think of his decisions.  I envy him for this, at times.  And I admire him even more for it.  When I first met him, I remember him telling me that one of his favorite quotes was from Ralph Waldo Emerson.  "Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."  He embodies that saying in his everyday life in so many wonderful ways.

I, on the other hand, have trouble living the life in front of me.  I think about our student loan debt and wonder how many decades it will be before we climb out of it and can start doing other things with our money.  I look at friends my age with multiple small children and wonder, "When? If? Will we ever be able to afford little children?" I look at our fixer upper of a house compared to the beautiful, Southern Living worthy homes of friends and think, "Should we just burn this whole thing down and sleep in a tent?"

On my worst days, that's where I live.  And on my best days, I am joyous and happy for those around me.  But man, can social media really bring me to a bad place.  A place where I am pressing my face against the glass of other people's beautiful lives, wishing mine were half as Instagram-worthy. I miss my own beautiful life right in front of me-- my snuggly dog, my small but lovely home, my handsome husband.  I'm a tangible, hands-on kind of girl-- I love the smells and feels and sights of all the beauty around me.  Yet I fear that I'm totally missing all of that tangible goodness in my own life because I'm so focused on the 2D filtered images of someone else's.

So I battle this lack of contentment with my own life day in and day out and wonder about the solution.  It's simple, really.  Besides praying for God to change my heart and my attitude, I have to let go of things not meant for me.  I don't think social media is healthy for me.  Instagram doesn't wreak havoc on my inner peace as much as Facebook, but I still feel the pull of wanting what others have in that space some days.  I deleted the Facebook app from my phone forever ago when I noticed what an ugly person Facebook made me.  Yet, I found a way around that-- using Safari to log into Facebook. I deleted Instagram from my phone during a past season of Lent and fasted from that for a good 40 days.  I've started making myself log out of Facebook on my computer because I so mindlessly type "F" into the web address box and click on the first link that pops up-- Facebook-- multiple times an HOUR just to see what else other people are doing.

I need a social media fast, but I'm terrified of missing out on important news or events in someone's life.  How will I know when it's someone's birthday? How will I know that my coworker is pregnant? How will I know that someone got engaged?  How will I find out about overtime needs at work without the Facebook forum? The truth is, the people who really matter in my life will tell me those things face to face.  Or via a phone call, since I live so far from many of my village people.  The people who do life with me day in and day out will reach me through means other than social media.  Social media makes me a really shallow, insecure person.  I need to find contentment and joy in who I am and the life I'm living again.  I need to find peace in Christ and who He made me to be-- living the life He called me to. And I need to stop pressing my face against the glass of other people's lives through social media.

So I'm setting off on an adventure of living without social media for a while.  And I need you to hold me accountable.  Because I am prone to wander and prone to fall back into my old ways.  And I'm prone to get caught right back up in the ugly, self-focused, jealous person I become when I spend too much time on social media.  I need help living the life in front of me.

How do you keep yourself free from the temptation of comparison in your life? What boundaries do you have to set so that you can live the life in front of you? How do you accomplish a healthy relationship with social media?

Would love to hear your thoughts on this.  I'll do my best to keep posting in this space through the next schoolyear but won't be as great about posting new blog posts on Facebook.  Feel free to follow along on here with how things are going.  And thanks for understanding this act of self-care as I chase after the beautiful life right in front of me.

Lots of love,

Monday, July 31, 2017

Desiring Less

School and life have totally flipped me upside down and shaken everything out of my pockets these last few weeks, hence my lack of writing in this space.  I'm in a place of wanting to simplify, of wanting have less of all the things and more of time with people I love, doing things that I love.  More than anything right now, I miss the water.  I miss the salt air and the sand between my toes and the smell of Ocean Potion.

I've been recovering this weekend from having my wisdom teeth extracted, and it was the least filled up weekend we've had in a while.  Somehow on Friday I was able to work through the numbness and swelling on my face to clean the house and cook a meal for friends that stayed the night with us, and Saturday I had some energy to do gardening and walk to breakfast where I ate cheesy grits and pancakes soaked in syrup.  Soft foods are totally my jam right now, and though this may be hard to believe, I'm getting so sick of carbs! I can't wait to eat something of substance again.  I forced myself to rest some, even though there was laundry to do and homework to think about.  And Scott and I both agreed that the rhythm of the weekend was just slow and steady.  We got things done in the house that we needed to but didn't feel like we spent all weekend working.  We watched silly movies (Alice in Wonderful & Through the Looking Glass, Beauty and the Beast, etc.) and laid around in our PJs.  We snuggled with dogs and ate when we felt like it.  We don't have many weekends like that anymore.  Most weekends are crammed with activities, projects, homework, and chores.  Or we're traveling and exploring new places-- which we always enjoy, but there's something nice about being home too.

We've recently been on a mission to declutter (one of my main goals for 2017 has been to live with less, and I've been decluttering and sending items to Goodwill since January).  We've now made it through most of our possessions in the main part of our house and will move to the basement for decluttering next.  I'm finding that it's making me so much less attached to my possessions and making me feel lighter to have less things in our home.  It also feels good to give items that someone else might appreciate a new home where they are loved and used more than they are in our home.  We still have a long way to go with living with less, but we both agree that it feels so good to be on this mission.  We did some cleaning on Friday and realized that there's so much less to clean where you have less things in your house.  Our house feels light and airy for the first time since we've moved in.  The unfinished house projects just don't irritate me as much when there's less clutter taking up space here.

I'm finding that I just want less and less of material things and more and more time with people I love in places I love.  I'm coming to appreciate being outside, breathing in fresh air, and seeing God's beautiful creation more than I ever have before.

In 10 9 (!!) months I'll be walking across a stage after completing my Master's degree to pursue a field of advanced practice nursing that I adore.  The months until then will be long, but I can't wait for all to come when it's completed.  It'll mean way less time doing schoolwork and studying and so much more time with my people.  Until then, you'll be hearing a lot less from me, but know I'm still chasing dreams, and there's still words in my heart that I can't wait to write.

Lots of love,