“I never learned anything while I was talking”~Larry King.
I had been a nurse for almost 30 years when I finally decided to go back to school. There were many reasons or probably excuses for this, but one of the biggest was my own ego. What could they probably teach me about nursing? I played with the idea of changing directions altogether, why not creative writing? I even thought about becoming a mortician. If it’s one thing nursing has taught me, it is the inevitability of death. Fortunately, after editing the papers of younger nurses who were back in school, and finding a way to get my ‘foreign’ education validated, I stopped fighting. And ten years later I am still in school, still learning how much I don’t know about the amazing profession and discipline of nursing.
To be honest, there are many of my peers who still think like I did, that they know enough, they learn enough on the job every day. But the reality of healthcare today demands 21st century nurses, and we owe it to our patients to be aware and informed of the massive changes in practice and policy. We also owe it to ourselves to be prepared to take the role we deserve, as the drivers of change. For too many years we have taken a back bench to the louder voices, we have permitted the bureaucrats, administrators and physicians to dictate our practice. We have allowed the many hats we wear (mothers, wives, Girl Scout leaders, not to mention the husbands and fathers!) to make us put up with and lie down before the decisions made by those other stakeholders.
But I digress. Too often we allow ourselves to get comfortable with what we have attained, not interested in rocking boats or changing directions. And our ego, which loves to feel it is in control, needs familiar ground. Charting new territory is frightening; it makes you vulnerable, it threatens your sense of security. And when you listen to your ego, you are scared to fail, scared to lose face. As if trying and not succeeding the first time somehow diminishes you.
The adventure that I began when I went back to school led me to teaching. And once I had gotten over the fear of the unknown, my ego reasserted itself. I saw the success or failure of my students as being a reflection of me. When they did not do well, it had to be my inadequacy. What did I do wrong? When ego is in charge, you fail to listen, to hear and to learn from your mistakes. Often I spent so much time reassuring, stroking my ego that I failed to see the opportunities that were in front of me. Once I took ego out of the equation I was able to find ways to reframe the debate.
This journey of life brings daily opportunities to learn and to grow, if you are open to the possibilities. I heard recently (and I am not sure of the scientific basis of this, but the metaphor is appealing) that the brain is able to experience sensations such as pleasure by contrasting them with pain. If we had no appreciation of pain and suffering, we would not be able to savor the joys and pleasures of life. Buddhists teach that there are no good or bad experiences, there are only experiences. We are the ones who assign labels and characteristics to these experiences, and then agonize over our perceived suffering. This relates to the philosophy of positive reframing; when I take a negative situation and look for a way to see differently (flip it over from the shadow to the light) I change the way my brain and thus my body (mindbodyspirit are after all indivisible) react. And when all else fails, ask yourself, what lesson can I learn from this?
This cool Friday morning in South Florida I send warm thoughts to those who are suffering from Mother Nature’s wicked sense of humor. My message may be a little muddled this week as I once more find myself run down and sick. My ego keeps telling me that I can do it all, and my body reminds me that caring begins with self-care. Another lesson that I understand in theory, but apparently fail to put into practice.
Have a fabulous weekend Family! Take good care of yourself, and try not to bump into your ego as you challenge yourself to change and grow.