Message from Above from Below
as Time stands still on Me
As she flutters
You fly about
I’ve done the work?
You sway but will you stay
Prove to me
That I have moved beyond yesterday
As I seek for tomorrow
You land on Snail
And on Fairy Girl
By you flutter by me
Why do you give me
So much girth?
As you circle about
Oh here you come
Will you stay?
You land and find stillness
Beat after beat
You remain on me
I know Your meaning
I hear You from Above
I guess I have done
At least for Now as I watch you
Stand still on me
The Easter weekend has never been an easy one. Various mis-happening seem to occur each year. So it wasn't a surprised when I got a call from my Dad that my Mom was in the hospital for a bowel obstruction. He didn't expect me to come to HHI (nor did he expect my brother, to fly in days later). There was a beautiful moment before I was getting into the car to leave Easter morning in Asheville, when I gazed up to appreciate the full moon in all her grandeur and beauty before driving off.
I doubt anyone likes hospitals, I never have. The high tech equipment and smells that are intimidating. Somehow saying that our body's cannot be trusted. Upon arriving, the walk down the hospital corridor was benign enough with its innumerable pictures lining the walls giving a false allure of something other than what it is. One picture of a millennium at work, another a pelican perched watchful. My mom was pretty out of it when I got to her room that first day. She still was having residual effects of the meds they had given her in the ER.
The nurses and aides bustled in to check the machine that were running or weren't running with their alarm sending out warnings of a kinked tubing. I finally asked which button to press to reset the IV machine so that we wouldn't have to wait to have it reset by the staff. Throughout the few days that I was there they would come in to fill out form after form, one for her belonging list, another on her living will and still many others both important and inane. The personnel didn't have time to really engage with my mom in any meaningful way there was too much paperwork and machinery to occupy their attention. It was pitiful when she asked one nurse's aide if she had time later that evening to give her a back rub. The aide smiled sadly and said, we don't have time for that anymore. My mom reminisced that that is what always made her past hospital stays bearable. As I took off my shoes and climbed into her bed to give her the back rub that the staff didn't have time for, I pondered the state of health care as I listened to my mom nods off to sleep before being awakened by the IV alarm sounding.
The nurses were very inquisitive on her level of pain, trained well that no one should experience any discomfort "Let me know if you have ANY pain?" If it gets to a 5 we can give you something. They ignored me when I tried to explain to them and her as the weekend progressed that I didn't want for her to be in pain but she needed to be judicious about taking pain meds as it could hinder the progress of the bowels especially post op (and the doctor had agreed.)
I was especially dismayed to hear that the night nurse had given her morphine to help her sleep (she at that time did not yet have an order for melatonin.) She told me that she had been wakeful during that first night, "I don't want to get her (the nurse) in trouble" she told me as I inquired about what she had taken the night before. "How could she give you morphine for sleep?" I asked incredulously. (Doesn't this woman know that we have an opiod epidemic in this country??) "Well, my mom explained, "she said that if I tell her I have any pain she will give it to me which will help me sleep." OMG! I roared. I wasn't fearful that my mom was going to become a street addict but that she didn't need to be sedated. As an older adult, narcotics and sedatives increase her fall risk and slow her elimination capacity down while bogging her (close to) 80 year old liver unnecessarily of meds especially when she's not in pain!
My mom was getting a shot of heparin in her belly and machines on her calves to prevent clots yet there was little encouragement to get her up by the staff tending her. Wouldn't it be easier to prioritize getting her out of bed than load her up with drugs and machinery??? I asked one of the nurses if we could walk my mom later that evening. After the appointed time that the nurse and I agreed upon for her to be walked had come and gone, I got my mother up myself systematically unhooking her from as much as I could. When another nurse finally came in to attend to her empty IV bag she unhooked her from that machinery and off we went. My mom did well ambulating about, the threat of long term care somehow lurking as a possibility that she didn't want to entertain. The doctor had casually mentioned that if she was too weak she could just go there for a bit to regain her strength. This seemed to motivate my mom to get up and moving post-op. She didn't want to miss anymore bridge games sitting in a chronic care facility! Her nurse was breathless apologizing when she later came in before the end of her shift that she hadn't had time to help walk her there was too much else going on.
The next day the house physician, a younger woman came by. She didn't even know my mom but chided her, wagging her finger, "I told you not to get up without help. There are all these machines that need to be unhooked and you could fall! I replied rebelliously that we had gotten very good at unhooking the machine and making due ourselves. We all watched (one of the nurses was there too to witness) as this doc huffed and stormed out of the room. The nurse seemed to smirk but didn't make eye contact, my father looked chagrined but my mother conspiratorially whispered, "What did you think of her?" I was actually speechless. The whole experience was surreal right down to the big door in her room that wouldn't opened out to the lovely veranda that we couldn't get to because the door was locked. A teaser. Didn't Florence Nightengale extol the virtues of fresh air? My mom replied for me. I didn't like her and then she mimicked. 'I told you not to get out of bed without help.' I finally said, "well you wouldn't have gotten out of bed all day if we hadn't done it on our own, mom." To be fair, the night nurse did plan on getting my mom up. It was on her list. She was relieved and surprised to hear that it had already been done.
I ended up taking the elevator after getting stuck between floors one time. I had taken the stairs to leave (trying to get some exercise) and then got stuck between maternity and no way to re-enter in the stair well either. I was in a quandary until a tech happened by exiting from maternity to let me pass through by way of security. I told my Dad that I got stuck (and he, somewhat of a rule follower) said "well the only time you should take the stairs is if there is a fire!" (Don't we in a hospital want to promote walking?! Isn't that why some of these folks are here in the first place? Lack of proper diet and exercise?? It seems that exercise is discouraged, no stairs and there is even a shuttle in the parking lot that will ferry you from your car to the hospital door which is just steps away.
The part I found most appalling (and amusing) though was the food. As my brother Tim would tease (me), 'no gluten, dairy, meat, and No GMOs!' There was much of all four to be had on Easter in the hospital's cafeteria for those willing to partake, even though the billboard advertised something to the contrary. There was plenty of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese but little else. After skipping lunch, I went outside and found the best part of the hospital grounds. I found a spot on the grass and looked up at a sign that said, "Please don't feed Alligators" (and I wanted to add to it, the hospital fare inside .)
There are two paths in life: Should and Must. We arrive at this crossroads over and over again. And each time, we get to choose.
Should is how others want us to show up in the world — how we’re supposed to think, what we ought to say, what we should or shouldn’t do. It’s the vast array of expectations that others layer upon us. When we choose Should the journey is smooth, the risk is small.
Must is different—there aren’t options and we don’t have a choice.
Must is who we are, what we believe, and what we do when we are alone with our truest, most authentic self. It’s our instincts, our cravings and longings, the things and places and ideas we burn for, the intuition that swells up from somewhere deep inside of us. Must is what happens when we stop conforming to other people’s ideals and start connecting to our own. Because when we choose Must, we are no longer looking for inspiration out there. Instead, we are listening to our calling from within, from some luminous, mysterious place.
Must is why Van Gogh painted his entire life without ever receiving public recognition. Must is why Mozart performed Don Giovani and Coltrane played his new sound, even as the critics called it ugly. Must is why that lawyer in his thirties spent three years writing his first novel only to be rejected by three dozen publishers. He honored his calling, eventually received a “yes,” and that is why John Grisham is a household name today. Must isn’t exclusively for writers and painters and composers, though. Must is why, in the early days, Airbnb sold boxes of cereal to make ends meet because no one would give them money.
Choosing Must sounds fantastic, right? To step into the fullness of our gifts and offer them up to the world in the form of our work.
Well, it turns out that choosing Must is scary, hard, and a lot like jumping off a terrifyingly high cliff where you can’t see anything down below.
Growing up in Texas, I had a vague idea of what it meant to be “called” — in the grand sense of the word — although I had never experienced it for myself. Moses was a favorite story of mine, because Moses was the last person on earth we would choose to lead thousands of people to the promised land. He was quiet; he had a stutter; and yet, Moses was called.
“Follow your bliss and doors will open where there were no doors before,” modern philosopher Joseph Campbell wrote.
Recently, someone asked me a question, “But what if I don’t hear the call?” he asked. “What if I want to hear it but I can’t? What do I do then?” At Mailbox, we adopted a well-known practice from Amazon to write our future press release. That’s right, we wrote a real press release about a nonexistent product — the one that we wanted to exist in the world. We envisioned the headlines. We dreamed of what would happen if all of our wildest dreams came true. We even taped it inside of a magazine and put it on the coffee table. Most of us do this kind of big scary dreaming with our products, or our companies, but very few of us do it with our lives.
Roz Savage, a management consultant in London living “the big life” was 33 when she sat down and wrote two versions of her obituary:
The first was the life that I wanted to have. I thought of the obituaries that I enjoyed reading, the people that I admired… the people [who] really knew how to live,” she says. “The second version was the obituary that I was heading for — a conventional, ordinary, pleasant life. The difference between the two was startling. Clearly something was going to have to change… I felt I was getting a few things figured out. But I was like a carpenter with a brand new set of tools and no wood to work on. I needed a project. And so I decided to row the Atlantic.
Must comes from somewhere deep inside of us, a beautiful truth that calls to us from within, Should comes from somewhere external, a place that’s equally important and powerful. Should comes from the place we call home, the people we love, the world we’ve created—the people, places, and things that define us.
It is here, standing at the cliff’s edge, peering down below, hearing the siren’s call, that we feel the terrifying prospect of abandonment, failure, and humiliation. And this is the exact moment when people decide against taking the leap — to avoid that great unknown, that transformative place where nothing is written, nothing is guaranteed, and everything is possible.
Grab a piece of paper and write the numbers one through ten on the left side of the page. At the top, title it “What am I so afraid of?” This is your Worst Case Scenario list. This is your list of things that make you think “They’re all going to laugh at me.” These are your largest fears, and you’ve got ten minutes to write them down.
Line by line, walk yourself through each one. Would they really laugh at you? They would? How do you feel about that? Line by line, have a conversation about all of your fears. Would you really be homeless? Would you really be alone? Do you really need that much money? This is a list of your tradeoffs. And they are the biggest things standing in your way.
"When you reach a crossroad in Life, take it."
I asked a client recently if they have any spiritual belief or practice to support them and they said no. And I didn't want no for an answer. I flipped through Oriah's book this morning and stumbled on these words.
Sometimes when hope is gone, I breathe into my heart and find there the faith that sustains me, Faith that is field by the moments when I or others are able to find what is good, what is funny, sweet and tender in life, despite deep wounds and overwhelming difficulties. It is the courage of the human spirit and the relentless persistence of life all around us that gives me faith.
Living with hope is living with anticipation of what can be. Living with faith is relaxing into what is that cannot be changed by our will, and knowing that life in its fullness is good. Life will continue, and it will conspire with its beauty to pull me back to hope. This is my faith. Oriah as written in The Invitation
Blogger, yogi, nurse
storytelling on and off the mat