“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”~ Stephen Hawking.
I never forget the first time I heard the saying that the definition of insanity is doing things the same way and expecting to get different results. I was in one of those continuing education classes, trying to get my hours at the last minute (middle name Procrastinator). This was not as bad as the year I was sat in some lady’s living room, along with a dozen or so other fellow procrastinators, with my two-week-old baby at my breast. I remember nothing of the lectures that day, then again it was over thirty years ago. But the definition of insanity, that has stayed with me ever since.
I have not always been at the top of my game professionally. I consider myself to be a great nurse, but I have to confess that in the years when I was at the bedside delivering direct care, my job choices were based upon whatever fit my young family’s needs. I was a night nurse and so I was perpetually sleep deprived. I had no life outside of my home and job, and certainly did not aspire to be an academic or a nursing professor. I lived life one day at a time, we lived from paycheck to paycheck, and the discipline of nursing evolved without my input. I managed to move up the ranks to nurse manager and nursing supervisor without the benefit of a degree, and it wasn’t until my kids were leaving high school that I somehow managed to get myself back in school (at the age of 50!).
When I talk to current direct care nurses, or read nursing blogs, it sounds as if very little has changed for those at the frontline. We are still expected to do too much with too little: too little time, too few resources, too much responsibility. I have hopes that this new generation of outspoken young nurses will shake things up, but I know how hard it is to be an activist when you have mouths at home to feed, and patients who need your care. Is it because we are still a majority female profession that when we speak out we are not heard? We’ve come a long way baby, and still have much further to go.
One of the stories that I love to retell is about my mother’s culture shock, when first we moved to Jamaica. Although she was a traditional housewife, well trained in the role of minister’s wife, she was not prepared for the societal norms of the time. Before we made the move, my father exchanged letters with other members of the ministry in Jamaica, and they helped to prepare him for life in the country. We were told that women wore hats and gloves to church, and parson wore the robe and ‘dog collar’. My father had to go out and buy dog collars and the black shirt front to go with them. By the early 60’s English ministers (Protestant, reformed) wore more egalitarian suits and ties to preach on Sundays. But my mother had to learn more than the dress code. Soon after moving in, she asked the gentleman who was responsible for the upkeep of the property to have a tree trimmed, and he agreed to do so, but it did not get done despite several requests. It was not until she complained to my father, who spoke to the gentleman, that the limbs got chopped. No disrespect, just did not take orders from a woman!
I recently read an article regarding the group of people (far larger than we wish to believe) who can see the actions of a clearly corrupt man as being perfectly ok. The author explained that these people have a belief in a certain world order, one in which the white male is in charge, and everyone else should fall in line. Therefore women who dare to challenge the status quo are corrupt. Journalists who dare to challenge head white man in charge: fake news. Black men who dare to peacefully protest: a threat to democracy. Inter-racial marriages; immigrants from non-white countries; women leaders; women who sleep with men in power then threaten to expose; all are a threat to that outdated, unjust, and basically barbaric way of viewing the world. It would be mildly amusing if so many lives were not impacted by the ignorant and misguided actions of our current leader.
Life is so rich when we expose ourselves to other cultures, other ways of being. Nursing students (and in fact people in every profession) have to learn about cultural diversity in order to prepare themselves for a diverse world. And it begins with a self-evaluation, reflection on what our own biases are. How can we treat others with respect if we begin from a position of judging, of assuming, of preconceptions? What makes America great is the mixture, the melting pot, the variety of cultures, races and nationalities that call this place home. It is so sad that those who are threatened by this feel the need to control, to isolate, to divide. It is up to all of us to continue to demonstrate the power of unity, the beauty of empathy, the courage to embrace change.
This Friday morning I am still coming down from a contact high, after witnessing a celebration of love last weekend. Two people who have known each other since high school and went their separate ways, reunited, and over thirty years later, invited us to share in their joy at a picturesque wedding. In the words of Max Ehrman: “With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world”
Have a wonderful weekend, Family!