Keep Quiet or the Nurse is in Trouble…

The importance of keeping things tidy….

A bit of light relief this week.

I trained as a nurse in the seventies. I had long dreamed of fancy uniforms, handsome doctors and wiping fevered brows. I encountered all of these in various degrees but soon came to realise that there was a lot of hard work and long hours involved. The three years of training were often hard and many times I was tempted to give up. Had my school careers officer been right when he felt the best thing for me was to work at the local shirt factory back in my home town? Spurred on by the thought of an alternative life running up cuffs, collars and shirt tails, I kept going and I look back on my nursing career mostly with great affection. I can still remember some of my patients to this day, and the sadness and humour encountered along the way. I find too, that I have a pool of experience to work from which has helped me hugely with my writing career. Compassion and kindness, to me, are the foremost requirements for a good nurse, along with a calm exterior, but this calm exterior can crumble on the odd occasion….

I had been a student nurse for about six months and was gradually getting used to the unsociable hours, the baffling orders barked from the end of the ward and the mysterious terminology. A rigid routine emerged and seemed to supersede any eventuality. Ward work had to go on – always, and no matter what lurked behing the patient’s curtains. Soon I couldn’t imagine doing anything else but working within the hospital walls. Time off was limited and a social life was virtually non existent. But what made up for all the strict protocol was the patients themselves. People from all walks of life – rich or poor, young or old, famous or unknown, in various circumstances, all together under one roof, all on a level playing field if you like, and all experiencing the challenges that illness brings.

It is a fact of human nature that when we are up against it we show our courage – courage we didn’t know we had, and sometimes in the darkest of situations we find some humour….

One ward I worked on was run like clockwork by an absolutely terrifying Ward Sister who had everyone, even the most senior doctors, quaking in their boots. She was tall, thin as a rake, had tightly permed hair and steel rimmed spectacles. I could not imagine her wearing anything but her pristine uniform and nor could I imagine her ever partaking in anything that required a modicum of fun. She only spoke to juniors like me when barking orders, the rest of the time we were required to flatten ourselves against the wall and be as inconspicuous as possible when she swept past us with her usual  imperious look in place.  She could convey her displeasure with the merest lift of an eyebrow as she viewed the overall tidiness of her ward  – any stray newspaper or wrapper on a locker would be pounced on and woe betide the nurse who was remiss. One couldn’t doubt her dedication or the way her ward was run, however, and although the patients were totally in awe of her she was regarded with the utmost respect. Patient care was second to none and often she was still on her ward checking all was well long after her shift had ended.

One week we had a particularly rambunctious group of men on the ward – it was a men’s orthopaedic ward so usually they weren’t actually ill but perhaps recovering from operations or fractures. They usually got on well together and were often swapping lewd stories or jokes and the ambulant ones were often to be found playing cards in the day room. We had trouble keeping them under control at times but they soon learned to quieten down when Sister was around. We loved spending time chatting to these patients when we had the chance as they brought some normality to the ward and provided some light relief to the somewhat stifling atmosphere. One particular guy who I will call Jimmy had been on the ward for several weeks and became a great ally. He’d help with the tea trolley in the mornings and was allowed certain privileges. He also was good at helping the new patients settle in and he could be relied upon to keep an eye out for Sister and letting us know if she was on the warpath.

Tuesday morning at 11 am was always the Consultation’s ward round  – this was particularly stressful if you were on duty as just being in the vicinity was nerve racking. You just prayed you weren’t asked a question you didn’t know the answer to or sent to look for something you couldn’t find and were made to look embarrassed in front of the whole team. On the exact stroke of 11 Sister would unlock the trolley bearing the patients notes and stand poised and ready for the off. The consultant would sweep in followed by a group of hapless looking medical students struggling to keep up. The group would slowly make the way round the ward, going from bed to bed – the Consultant firing questions both at the nervous patients in the beds and the quivering students who tended to be rendered speachless when asked even the simplest question about a patient’s condition. Sister, as usual was calm and collected and kept all running smoothly.

On particular Tuesday I was standing in my usual flattened position against the wall watching the round take place when I noticed to my horror that somehow a new patient unaware of ward protocol had unpacked some sandwiches he had brought in from home and had laid out a veritable picnic on his bed, complete with a napkin. He was also nonchalantly reading the newspaper whilst enjoying his sandwich at the same time. From my position by the wall I edged slowly down the Ward so as not to attract attention until I caught Jimmy’s eye. No words were needed. There was just a shocked look in Jimmy’s eyes followed by a slight twitch and slight loss of colour in his face. I can still see in my mind’s eye what happened next. In his boldly stripped standard issue hospital dressing gown, Jimmy somehow managed to move stealthy up the ward until he disappeared under the end bed. Slowly sliding along underneath, bed by bed, and keeping his stiff leg somehow angled to a safe position he kept going until he was level with Freddy, the new patient. A stripey arm appeared on the bed, feeling around for the sandwiches, and slowly both the napkin and the sandwiches disappeared from view. Freddy, realising his tasty snack was missing, peered out from behind his paper. Jimmy’s head appeared over the side of the bed.

    “Fold your paper up mate and forget about your sandwiches quick as you like” whispered Jimmy from the corner of his mouth. “Stay where you are and say nothing!” With that, he ducked down again and slithered back down the ward. Luckily, the ward round was particularly slow on the day and the team had been seemingly unaware of the unusual actions of some of the patients! Freddy stayed like a statue for the rest of the ward round, even struggling to answer the Consultant when he asked him how he was.

The Consultant finished his round and went to have his customary cup of tea in Sister’s office and the lowly students ambled off, relieved it was over. I went to check on Jimmy, worried that his escapade may have set his recovery back a bit, but he was full of laughter.

The day carried on at its usual busy pace and all seemed in order. Sister came over to me at the end of the shift to dismiss me.

   “You may go now Nurse. Make sure you dispose of those sandwiches on the way out”.

Maybe she was human after all.

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Finding Courage When You Need It

So many times we are encouraged to be fearless and bold.

 

Courage is the foundation of freedom.

Thucydides (460BC-395BC) wrote: ‘The secret to happiness is freedom…And the secret to freedom is courage.’

Today for various reasons I have been thinking about courage. Letting go, not blaming others, and taking responsibility for your own life takes courage, but until you find that courage you will find it difficult to enter the calm and happy place in your heart where you can just ‘be’.

So many times we are encouraged to be fearless and bold. To follow our desired path. Many life coaches and authors focus on the need to be fearless and authentic and that’s wonderful advice. We all appreciate that friendly push to find the strength to be authentic; be fearless and inspired. But what if the fear soon returns? Then we hear our inner critic return again which fills us with the old doubts. The thing to remember here is that no one is truly fearless, but the people we admire – the ones who seem brave and do amazing courageous things, are the ones who have learned to move through their fear. And so bravery is in feeling fearful but doing what you want or need to anyway.

We all have ‘free space’ in our minds, a place which we can choose to go into and be calm, but it takes a while to train ourselves to use that space and not just resort to old familiar feelings when we are stressed or worried. In that calm space we can make our own conscious decisions without reacting to negative situations coming from outside. We can be in charge. This involves not making snap decisions and assumptions i.e. ‘that person was very rude to me in the queue, there’s no excuse: he’s not nice.’ The person may be nice normally but may have had a bad day or bad news. When you are in the free space, you cut people some slack, or at least do not let their behaviour get to you.

For a long period of our lives we may have handed over the responsibility of our lives to others; we may have created a certain belief about ourselves and the world in a way which was not benefiting us. Perhaps we didn’t believe we were free; free to live in love, abundance, and good health. Because of this, it takes courage to re-introduce yourself to the world and to let go of all the old energy blocks and take back the power for yourself. It can be overwhelming to adjust and to take back the power that you once gave away. That is why we say –‘it takes courage to be, it takes courage to do, and it takes courage to have’.

Courage ‘to do’ is relatively easy to understand; we may be afraid to contemplate bungee jumping, or public speaking for example; these are things we can be frightened about but we can picture doing them without having to change our lifestyle. However, if we want to change and be different do we really need courage then? The answer is yes, because unless you are really ‘being it’ you cannot live it. A lot of people dream about having or doing different things but they look from the outside; often we are looking at a façade rather than looking at what is real. It can take a long time to decide to change – to cast away all the old thoughts and ideas we have clung on to for so long.

Who are you really? What is your essence and your purpose? Do you dare to say you are unique? Not only is your fingerprint different from any other, so are you! You are extraordinary. There is only one you. Remember also, that trying to be someone else or putting on a different persona will not help you long term.

So do you really have the courage to be yourself? Only then will you be able to feel really free – be free to decide what you want to do, to be or to have. This sounds simple, but is it?

Admit Your Scared

It’s important to admit it to yourself when you are stuck in fear. Too often though, this process allows you to let the fears become worse. By admitting you’re fearful you will be asking yourself what being scared means to you and you will start filling in the blanks with the answers that don’t help, such as: ‘I’m scared I can’t handle this.’ Whatever your story is – it is just that – a story. It can be changed. Aim to stop adding to your negative storyline and get rid of any over dramatic feelings. Remember that being fearful just means you’re human.

Once you have admitted you are fearful it doesn’t mean necessarily that you just need to move past the fear without a backward glance. It may be nature’s way of making you check something out. Take time to get your thoughts clear. If the fear is groundless then you can tell yourself all is well. If you have a genuine worry then find the time and strength to run your worries past the right person that can help you. (That takes courage too, I know, but once you put into words whatever is bothering you, you are on the road to healing).

Recognise you aren’t alone.

You are in great company. Everyone, even your greatest role models have had to cope with fear at one time or another. So don’t put yourself down. Recognise you are part of a tribe of people who have, through time, taken a risk and moved beyond perceived safety to something more rewarding. To join the tribe of the brave, don’t focus on what you feel, focus on what you can do about your situation. Once you have ruled out any danger you can take fear as a good sign, a marker that you are alive and engaged. You are completely present in the moment. You are out of your comfort zone but in a funny way, you can actually take comfort from that!

Keep the free space in your heart.

The word courage is related to the French word ‘coeur’ which means heart. When you experience those anxiety filled moments remember to connect with your heart – your core. This is the place where all your emotions flow from – love, warmth and wisdom, and where you get to the heart of the matter.

                        ‘Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.’       August Wilson 

Forgiveness takes courage.

I’d like to think a little bit about forgiveness too and how showing forgiveness is the pathway to freedom. Showing forgiveness is not easy for any of us to contemplate and real forgiveness takes a lot of courage. But again, when you are coming from that free space in your heart you find a new way of moving forward. Think about a situation in your life – perhaps when you have felt you didn’t deserve the upset that came your way – then think about letting go of old hurts and resentments – the churning of old turmoils and the bubbling feeling of being hard done by that lies not far from the surface – let them go – let them really go. Wish the situations you encountered love. Show forgiveness and tell yourself you have no further need for resentful feelings in your life and feel yourself grow.

I urge you to think about your life, to go through the issues that need your forgiveness. Take the time to ask yourself if you are really ready to be the person you want to BE, to be ready to DO what you want to do and are really ready to HAVE what you want to have. It takes courage to be ready to receive. But if you are prepared go deeper with your thinking you will understand that with courage you will have the necessary requirements to BE.

So we are all individuals, each with our own way of accepting and facing our fears. Most of us are by no means always masters of control but if we think about going into our clear space – let go of our fears and aim to be courageous and bold, we will feel much more alive and vibrant and our new found inner strength will shine through.

Are you willing to allow yourself to be more courageous? You may just find you are more bold and courageous than you knew. In fact, I think you already are.

‘Though an ordinary woman,
Nothing about me is plain;
Like a single fingerprint traced in dust,
No other is the same.’
© Lyn Halvorsen

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Love That Knows Our Name…

 

To know you are loved or have been loved is more than uplifting, it is at the core of everything.’

Having recently experienced loss, I entered an all encompassing tunnel of sadness where daylight seemed all but obliterated and the sound around me was literally muffled. Life was put on hold except for all but the most necessary of tasks and the most basic needs. Time seemed to be suspended and yet the days passed quickly; the world going by my window and the morning light still throwing shafts of sunlight across the floor every morning whether I liked it or not.

But going through the motions of daily life I came to know more about love and kindness than ever before. People I knew well showed great kindness and kept me going, but what also surprised me was the outpouring of love and kindness from neighbours, from waiters in coffee shops and even people on the end of a phone that I called to report the loss of my dad to for clerical purposes. And I wondered why often it is not until we feel deep pain that we also find the most love? When we are in a ‘normal’ state; on an even keel and just following routine, we don’t always stop to notice the small but profound things that are ever present yet not on our radar during the bustle of everyday life. But in a state of grief life changes; normal and trivial irritations lie unnoticed, worries about work deadlines, so important last week, stay in the ‘in-tray’ tucked at the back of our minds, and the cloak of regularity falls from our shoulders.

Most of us are lucky enough to have friends and family that love us; maybe we even take it a little for grated at times; sometimes complacency can come with familiarity, but perhaps when we are sad or in pain, even if we are not always vocalising what we feel or are going through, our vulnerability opens us up to others and their natural and inbuilt   ability to reach out. And if we do open up, even to strangers, more often than not we are treated with a compassion we were not expecting, yet in reality is never far from the surface.

Think about times of adversity, tragic terror attacks or emergency. We help each other, open our homes, give money we can’t really afford, offer the coat from our backs even….then we retreat back into our safe world again for a while. Maybe there is a comfort from day to day routine where we just focus on our own world, but we all seem to have an inbuilt mechanism to bring our love and compassion to the forefront. And there are times when we show that and are shown it just when we need it.

There cannot be many parts in our day that are not touched by love in one form or another; it may not always be obvious but it is there. It is waiting in the wings – an unceasing energy and in limitless supply. Even when doing a mundane job like housework, chances are you will have the radio on in the background and before long you will be humming along to a love song. In the coffee shop you may see a mother absently plant a kiss on her baby’s head, or hear a dad shout ‘love you’ out of the car window as he drops his child off at school – (they may be embarrassed but they will remember).

When we love deeply there are no boundaries. The heart finds a way to love when the time is right and knows when to give love out. Sometimes we need courage to reach out, but when we do we are rewarded a thousandfold. Love can be gentle when it needs to be; it can be held in a reassuring wink from across a crowded room, it can be in the gentle squeeze of the hand or the fragrance of a bunch of primroses. Love can be bold too. It can be shown by standing up for someone against the crowd, it can be in the giving of a chance of life to another, or it can be shown by knowing when to let go. And most of all, love is unconditional.

Having said this, there are still times when we feel alone; times when we feel no one understands what we are going through. Perhaps we are floundering, perhaps we are ill or have been treated badly or unfairly. Perhaps we are thinking ‘why me?’ These are the times that we find it harder to reach out, but these are the times we need to remind ourselves that we ARE loved, even in darker times.

I have to remind myself now, especially having experienced loss, that love is borderless. There isn’t a set number of times you can tell someone’s you love them. There isn’t a set amount of love to go around. Love has a bottomless pit. And love can encompass us even in times of immense sadness and get us through. So many people who survived the terrible atrocities of the holocaust emerged to live again in the light and found the courage to give and receive love.

We learn how to live and work and grow and play in the material and physical world and yes we need to do that, of course. The world is our resting and our doing place. For now. As Professor Stephen Hawking is quoted as saying – ‘It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love’.

Love is all around us and is a natural spiritual state, but what happens to the love we felt for someone who has departed this life? I believe love crosses realms. It stays with us long after a loved one has departed. In fact, it never leaves us; it sits in our memories, it stirs us when we least expect it, it appears in our dreams and it runs through our veins. It is part of us; both our past and our future and for all time.

If love is energy then surely it cannot be extinguished by death.

 

A Trace of Me

Love is part of who you are,

A vital speck sent from afar.

And sometimes when you close your eyes,

You see from the past, familiar skies.

And you will know, and one day see,

That somewhere, there’s a trace of me.

                                                                                                          (C) Lyn Halvorsen

 

 

If It Doesn’t Open It can’t Be Your Door

Do you ever feel you haven’t got what you deserved?

Have you ever had trouble coming to terms with acceptance? When you feel you haven’t got what you deserved or when you can’t seem to bring a plan into action even though all the signs were there that gave you hope for a good solution? Stressful situations occur when we dwell on what we haven’t got, what we haven’t been given when we feel it it is rightfully ours or perhaps a relationship hasn’t worked out even though it seemed to be going well.

It is difficult to know when to give up sometimes; when to call things a day when something isn’t working or to accept that there are some things that you can’t change. Some things cannot be forced and some things cannot be kept. When you try to keep water in your cupped hands you cannot, not matter how hard you try.

There is a difference between finding courage to keep going in certain situations when you know you need to and when your heart is telling you you are doing the right thing, and finding the strength to walk away when a sitauation isn’t working and isn’t beneficial to you. Mostly, we have an inner knowing if we stop and recognise it  – we know when something is going to work and when it isn’t. Yet we sometimes do not know how to stop, or maybe we can’t find it in ourselves to let go of a situation. The more we force our selves into a situation the harder it becomes. It often takes more courage to give up on something than to keep going. To let go of something that isn’t working is not necessarily failure, it is just a result.

When a plan doesn’t work out it is very hard to find a reason – but when you feel stressed or upset ask yourself if it will really matter that much in years to come. Time helps us look back on situations and see them for what they really were. Some things just cannot be explained until you look at them retrospectively. Trust that even if you don’t have an understanding of a situation now, you will in time. So many times we can be thankful that we were saved from making a bad mistake when we look back. Perhaps you were sad when a relationship didn’t work out but would you have met the person of your dreams further down the line – your soul mate who was waiting in the wings?

It has been very busy at Dove Lane this week; I have been working hard on a project and haven’t always taken enough rest. Why do I keep going when I know I should pause, take a break and regroup? I know what I should do and yet I don’t follow my own rules! I hear the birds singing outside and hear the breeze calling me in the early hours – my mind is active yet I should take time to notice the small things – the things that matter – and remember that quality time is precious.

When the  door you want to enter won’t open for you, don’t keep pushing against it. It the door won’t open it can’t be your door.

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The Shadow of the ‘Worry Monster’.

Sometimes, a little light is all you need…

When I started my blog a few years ago now, it was intended to be quite generalised. It was about pursuing the gentler path in life and concentrating on kindness and compassion, and I guess, the twists and turns we all experience in everyday life.  These topics are still close to my heart and I will write about them from time to time; life throws up all sorts of weird and wonderful things at us and there will always be new subjects to ponder on! Sometimes we need a bit of humour too to send us on our way!

One thing I have noticed, though, is the feedback that comes from my comments on anxiety. It seems, unfortunately, that many of us suffer from anxious times and there is a real need for ongoing support and backup for those battling with anxiety. Because of this I want to concentrate mainly on this topic for the foreseeable future.

If I can reach out to any of you who need support then I feel my words are doing their job. It’s amazing to think that with all the help at our disposal, we still need good, down to earth support. And it is ongoing. Anxious feeling may come and go. We are not suddenly cured from having unsettling feelings no matter how good the counsellors or the gurus we turn to. Sometimes, other occurrences in our lives just tip the balance between feeling ok to feeling unstable and miserable. Then, we can get despondent too and ask ourselves how we are going to cope with the latest situation that has cropped up. The lurking ‘worry monster’ is difficult to shake off. He doesn’t have much else to do but hover in the background. I feel sorry for him really – he doesn’t really have a life. You do! Once you meet him head on he will shrivel, trust me.

What we have to remember is this: ‘Sometimes, just a little bit of light is all you need’. We can take strength from so many places if we reach out and look for it. Be open. Be open to people – it makes a difference to how they treat you. Be honest. Say you aren’t feeling your best. Don’t give masses of detail. I find you don’t need to. Sometimes, less is more. Just tell who you are dealing with at the time that you aren’t having the best of days. You would be amazed how people can push aside their own ‘stuff’ and give you their kind attention. Most people are genuine and will do all they can to help you, but you have to give them a chance. Find your inner voice somehow. Be brave and help will come to you in spades.

I do appreciate that everyone has different issues going on. I have had a bereavement this week and it has taken all my power just to keep going. But I do keep going somehow. Going through the motions of everyday life helps. I say this countless times, but it does really help. However bad you feel (unless you are physically incapacitated) keep to the simple routines and try and get some things done, however small. It will help and give you a feeling of achievement when you can tick off a few things on your ‘to do’ list.

Funnily enough though, I will add this here: don’t worry too much about standards. This is something I struggle with. I have always felt appearances are important. Makeup on, hair done, house tidy, fridge full of food etc. But, here’s the thing. You can give in a bit! Let a few things go – it’s not the end of the world if you are not looking pristine! Friends may even quite like to see you not quite at your best, it shows you are human. I’m not talking totally let yourself go, but just cut yourself a bit of slack. Sop worrying what people think! They are busy with their own lives; they may love you but they still have their own stuff going on and they are not sitting there thinking you have gone to pot. (Unless you really have, in which case if they are a good friend they are on their way round right now!)

So this week I ask you to focus on this. You are loved. Honestly you are. You may be feeling bad but someone cares, really cares about you, even if you don’t feel it to be true. Get out a piece of paper. Doodle a bit. Make a pretty border. Leaves, bows, swirls, whatever. In the centre of the paper, write this is your best handwriting : ‘You are loved’. Use some coloured pencils if you have them. Be fancy. Then put your picture in a prominent place and look at if often. I promise you, it will help.

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So, this week. Leave the ‘worry monster’out in the cold. Do not feed him no matter how much he badgers you! Whatever is going on, if you feel bad, talk to someone who cares. Or look up online help sites if you need to. Or see your doctor if you are worried about anything. Ask and it will be given.

     ‘When the north wind blows, And your world is grey, My friendly heart hears all you say. Call my name, In your darkest night, I’ll find a way to bring you light. And if your world Is tumbling down, I’ll wrap you in a cosy gown. I’ll feed you soup , And bring you wine, For your life is a part of mine’. 

                                       (C) Lyn Halvorsen

Hold Fast To All That is Good

I seem to have been writing so often lately about heartbreak and sadness  – so much has happened in our country to render us bereft and fearful. Our hearts are troubled as more and more tragic, dreadful and appalling occurrences unfold in front of our eyes as we view our television screens. How much can some people take we ask ourselves; what can we do to help others and also keep ourselves safe? We become full of doubt; how can this happen? Why is our country and its people suffering in such awful ways? How can a rich borough of London be home to such a terrible fire , possibly caused through blatant neglect of public safety? There may be some who in their hearts know the answers, but for most of us we have to carry on somehow, and meanwhile the books of condolences are filled with words from grieving hearts, and the flowers continue to be laid all around the sites of the latest disaster.

The heat in the country this week has not really been welcomed – its as though nature is contriving to add to our discomfort; we have trouble even resting at night. We do not wake refreshed and we find it hard to concentrate on our daily routine. I got to thinking that any extreme is hard to cope with. We search for equilibrium and balance in all things – at least I do. It’s easier to cope with life when we can jog along at a steady pace, walk around without feeling fearful of what lurks around the corner, and know that everything is in order. But of course, nothing stays like that for long, and when things go badly wrong we have to dig deep to find strength to cope. It is at times like these that the smallest things seem to help us – getting out into the garden, walking in the woods, hugging the grandchildren and reading them a funny story. We can share a coffee with friends, help our neighbour, offer someone a word or two of kindness. Just going through the motions of routine tasks can get us through the days that are difficult.

 As always in times of dreadful disaster, we see the kindness of strangers shine through. People pull together and are incredibly brave and courageous. They give. They give money they don’t really have; they give people comfort,  both materially and physically; they give love and show compassion. That’s when we realise how much goodness there is in this time of utmost suffering.

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We often find that the widest our experience is, the deeper our tolerance. Wisdom comes from all the ups and downs we have gone through in our lives and how we have dealt with them. And with wisdom comes a knowing. Knowing not to give advice unless asked for it; not making assunptions and forming opinions, not making judgements. It’s knowing we don’t always get things right and being ready to hold our hands up and admit it when we get things wrong. Mainly wisdom gives us courage. Courage to reach out when we see someone in need even if we have to step out of our comfort zone to help them. Courage to face our own demons.  Courage to step out and keep going in this scary world. Courage to stand up for what we believe in a peaceful, honest and informed manner.

One of my sons once said to me that it is what we do when no one is looking that counts and I have found this to be so true in life. If we can go forth with a light heart we can find it easier to cope with that which life throws at us.

In these times of darkness we pray for all those who’s hearts are breaking. We pray they will find some peace and will be wrapped in the love and comfort of open and loving arms.

Most of all we remember that when we all look to the future with love in our hearts, and unite in peace, we will be lifted up together.

Blessings to you.