I can’t help it. I’ve got mindfulness on the brain.
It’s been that way since I took the plunge a few weeks ago with my first speaking gig for Nurse’s Week. The topic was Mindfulness. I have to admit that during the introductory segment of my presentation, the only thing I was mindful of was the tight bundle of nerves vibrating in my stomach. What was interesting to me was once I started to incorporate my personal stories into the talk, my heebie-jeebies began to fade away – what a relief. I guess this whole blog thing has gotten me pretty comfy with sharing my innermost feelings and experiences with complete strangers. Just like it was an honor to share my heart and soul with my fellow nurses, so it is to share this piece of my presentation with you.
You know what they say: “Make sure you leave your stress at work. Don’t bring it home with you.” Well, my problem used to be the complete opposite. I could not, for the life of me, leave my personal pain at home. It had become a leech. My “Fake It Till You Make It” mantra had failed me.
I couldn’t even get through a 12-hour shift. All my co-workers had to do was look at me or touch my arm and I’d turn into a wet noodle. I used to want to call in sick every chance I could – anything to avoid coworkers and the pure torture of walking in the very same hospital Mom stayed in before she entered hospice. My own workplace now made the top 10 list of Things That Remind Me of Mom. There was no escape from my pain – not even my job.
Two months after she died, I was in the parking garage walking my zombie-like RN self towards the hospital. I was late. And I couldn’t care less – which is so unlike me. But when I got to the bottom of the stairs, a wave of grief shook the zombie right out of me. I began to freak out.
That’s it, I’m done. I quit. I can’t be a nurse anymore. All I do is cry. What’s the good in me even being here. I just want to go home and go back to bed.
Right then, I heard a familiar voice. It was Mom. I heard her tell me a phrase she used to say anytime she’d introduce me to someone she knew. It was loud and clear.
“This is my daughter, Marla, and she’s a nurse.”
A blanket of peace came over me. A king-size blanket. One sentence – the one that used to embarrass the heck out of me all those years – suddenly became my source of comfort.
Thank you, Mom. I hear you. I hear you. I won’t quit. I promise.
Mom wasn’t done with her motivational message. With the wipe of a last tear came a vision in my mind’s eye. It was her urgent “Get in there and clean your room” gesture, spoken through gritted teeth with the firm swipe of her index finger directing me to my dirty room, “or else.” Except this time, I wasn’t intimidated. Instead, I smiled, knowing it was her way of telling me to ‘get back in that hospital where you belong, young lady.’
That was it. That was all it took. A new mindset kicked in. It took me to a new level allowing me to just be – to stop fighting grief. I was done beating myself up with so many negative thoughts.
Here I go again, being a burden to my co-workers. Every time they ask me how I’m doing, I cry.
Look at me. I’m a mess. I look and feel like crap. I’m tired of trying to keep it all professional around my patients.
I can’t even think straight. I swear, I’m going crazy.
Once I decided to take my emotional boxing gloves off and allowed myself to just be, I began to notice some eye-opening changes at work. I was less of a wet noodle. I was emotionally stronger, and I had a renewed sense of clarity. It was as if someone had wiped Windex over the windows of my eyes and soul.
I became more mindful of the smallest details I would never have noticed before. For instance: baby names. After my little spiritual awakening in the parking garage, my fine-tuned antenna started to hone in on the traditional names my patients had chosen for their babies. Older names, like Ann, Mary, William, or Robert, always prompted me to ask this simple question:
“So, what made you come up with that nice name?”
Nine times out of ten, they’d respond with: “We’re naming her after my deceased grandmother,” or “That was the name of my father who passed away.”
One question opened the door to Connectionville, which led me to the next door.
“Well, they must have been pretty special to you if you’re naming the baby after them,” I replied.
“What a way to honor them.”
Boom! Another door would open and they’d start telling me a story about their baby’s namesake. Next thing you know, we’re swapping stories about our own grief journeys. And if you know me by now, you can bet the hot topic of heavenly signs made its way into the conversation.
“Do you have any dream visits?”
“Do you see a lot of redbirds around?”
“Do you ever smell their cologne out of the blue?”
“What are some of the special signs you get?”
Naturally, I always reassure them: “I promise I won’t think you’re crazy. Because if I think you’re crazy, that means I’m crazy. And I know I’m not crazy.”
Many of my patients begin their answers with a smile or laughter before revealing the most intimate details of encounters with their beloved. Sometimes they start to cry. And sometimes, I cry right along with them. During those sacred moments, it no longer feels like a nurse-patient relationship, but rather a human to human one. Soul to soul. That, to me, is what mindfulness is all about.
I am mindful that God uses mindfulness to get me connected to myself, to others, and to HIM.
I am mindful that if it wasn’t for my own personal pain related to death, I wouldn’t be tuned into my patients or others who deal with grief.
I am mindful that my parents continue to love and “parent me” from the other side. Especially Mom.
I am mindful that if I gently allow myself to just be, God can use my heartbreaking experiences for HIS glory.
I can’t help it. I’ve got mindfulness on the brain. And I want it to stay that way.