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This site is for student nurses or nurses starting out. Letters to a Young Nurse are blog posts written like letters to help you find your way and make your journey as a nurse less difficult. 

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Gratitude and Thank You

Updated: Jul 19, 2023






Several years ago, I woke up to the observation that many friends had made that I had road rage. I loved driving fast and have only been in 2 accidents (1 not my fault, it was raining). I would play games with other drivers by guessing their next move. For 8 years I rode a motorcycle on my commute to work. My commute was not like most, I rode all over the Bay Area as a nurse doing Apheresis. I rode a Yamaha V Star 650. It was a black beauty that looked like a Harley but cost 60% less! I rode the cruiser all year round, 5 days a week, and put over 1000 miles a week on it. When you are on a motorcycle you have to be on constant guard. Anyone could swerve into your lane and cause a lot of damage and death! And you also get to watch stupid things that drivers do. So, in many ways I had a right to my road rage. Someone threw a bottle at me once. I don't know why, I guess the driver didn't like motorcycles. I have been almost hit multiple times. I was hit once when a driver turned left from the right-hand lane right in front of me. I went down but wasn't hurt. The driver kept going.

But how do you cure road rage if you still have to drive to get to work and other places? How could I ask for help but forget to buy the lottery ticket? The answer was, like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, right there all the time. I tried a free but highly effective treatment. I practiced gratitude. The are many studies that show that by practicing gratitude we can change our life. I started by being grateful when I got stuck at a train crossing. "Thank you (insert your preferred higher power) that I did not get hit by the train." Then I was grateful that I got from point A to Point B without getting in an accident. And then the practice trickled into my home life. Before I went to sleep every night, I would think of 5 things I was grateful for that day. It was often an encounter with a patient or family member that went well. A kind word said by a co-worker. Finishing charting without going into overtime. Then I added gratefulness to the morning. Before my feet hit the floor, I had thought of 5 things I was grateful for that week and thought of the positive things I wanted to happen that day. Then I added mindfulness breathing before sleep and upon waking. I don't get a lot of benefits from prolonged meditation, but the short and quick breathing and gratitude practices have changed my life.

I don't think I have road rage anymore. I know this to be true because the last time I had to get on the freeway for a trip, I understood, in the depths of my being the fear that older persons get when driving on it. People are not only crazy with how they drive but it is done at high speeds. My favorite bumper sticker says, "Slow down or you will be seeing me later in the ER!"

Gratitude also helped me in my job as a hospice nurse. Day after day I met patients with no family. Or family too far away to be of any help. I met patients who were in the last stages of Alzheimer's or Dementia who died forgotten and alone. Every day I would thank God (insert your preferred higher power) for my home, my wife, my nutty doggies, my adopted son and his son, my sacred space that holds all of my hopes and my dreams. Many have said, better than me, that you cannot be sad and be grateful at the same time. You have the choice whether you stay in the rage or find a way through to peace and contentment. It takes too much energy to stay angry all the time.


If you need proof, please visit https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/gratitude

There is a gratitude calendar that changes every month. Every day a new suggestion is listed to help you find your gratitude and happiness. There are evidence-based practices that you can use in your relationship with yourself, with your mate. or at work to help you find you happiness. This website helped me when I was going through a rough time lately.


The other tool that helped me become less angry and rageful was to change my language in my head. One of my favorite authors, Anna Deavere Smith, wisely said, "say a word often enough, it becomes you". If the loop in our brain is on a constant whine about how stupid we are, or how awful we look etc then how can one find happiness? You cannot be happy when the voices in your head are screaming that you are worthless or stupid, fat and ugly. I prefer to remind myself that I am royalty, a queen who has a mission to help others get better and live a life of quality with longevity. A perfect example is Physical on Apple TV. The main character, Sheila Rubin played by Rose Byrne, has a running dialogue about how her life sucks, how fat she is, how worthless she is and so much more. This chatter leads to binge eating and vomiting by herself in a motel room with 6 cheeseburger meals. It is that endless loop, lubricated and added to by a society that says we will never be good enough, pretty enough, wear the right clothes, drive the right car, etc. ad nauseum. I am grateful that I learned early in my career that those were just voices and not truth. We can choose to listen or tell it to get lost and get on with our day.





Say Thank You

When is the last time you said thank you to someone? Ironically, I had a dream about my childhood last night. My parents were not perfect. When my mother wasn't working 80 hours a week, she was a binge drinker, and my father was addicted to pain medication and other women. So, my brothers, sister, and I grew up spending our free time in our rooms away from the chaos. Children of alcoholics and/or addicts learn to not be heard, not be seen and become invisible. This was difficult for me to do because I am 5'9" with large feet and hands and a large frame. By the time I was 9 years old my shoe size was 10 and I towered over many of the kids in my school. And I was gay (although I did not admit it to myself until I went to college).


We had an idyllic childhood (apart from the chaos) and when I was old enough to drive, I went everywhere to get away from the fighting. Most of the time I drove to the homes of one of the women in our local church. I would arrive, uninvited, sit in the corner and not say much. There was Pixie, Marie, Elvira, Gail, Jenny and others who opened their homes to me and allowed me to be there soaking up the energy of their family. I never remember thanking them for helping me survive. So thank you ladies.


Then there were the 4 special teachers in the English Department who took me under their wing when they gave me the position of English Aide (a position that did not exist). High school would have been unbearable had it not been for the care and support of those women. Again, I did not thank them then so I thank them all now. When my mother was an inpatient at Rehab and refused to let her family visit it was these women who spoke to her and got her to change her mind. I was able to visit and help her come back home. The first time I got drunk (just tipsy) was at the party of one the teachers in her home. My mother was never home so they helped to raise me. "It takes a village" was never truer than with me. I also had a few dear friends from middle school and high school who helped me learn how to be social. Thank you, Sharon, Robin and Mary.

My list of Thank You's would not be complete without thanking all of my partners. There are a few. Thank you, PE, RAH, EZ, LW and my forever love Ana.


I need to also thank the hundreds, probably thousands of patients/families that have taught me how to be a nurse and a human being. Nursing and medicine are always changing but my patients keep me informed and help me learn how to be present in their moments.


And now I thank you for reading and following me on this journey down memory lane. Thanking other people and gratitude have been shown to add life to our years. I am grateful that I have had a great life (so far) and look forward to the happiness I deserve and take hold of.








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