“Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.” ~ Aesop.
We are at the time of year when days seem to crash into each other in their hurry to see the end of 2019. In the USA, once we hit Thanksgiving, we may as well give up and start writing 2020 already, it is as if we have written off anything productive that 2019 has left to offer. Of course, there is the theory that the passage of time is not equal in every moment. Think about how slowly time passes when you are waiting to hear news (like our nursing students waiting to hear if they passed the NCLEX), or how quickly it passes when you have a timed task to complete. They say we perceive time differently as we age, since a year when you are 98 is only one percent of your life. When you are four, a year is 25% of your life. Another theory has to do with new experiences. When you are young you have so many firsts, everything seems amazing and new. As we get older and jaded, we perceive that there is nothing new under the sun.
Thanksgiving marks the rapid approach of Christmas and the end of the Year, as well as being that holiday that for me is a mixed message. It celebrates the notion that people should give thanks for new beginnings, for the generosity of the land to the arriving set of immigrants, for the land of opportunity. But for those who were here before the immigrants landed, and for those who were brought here through acts of inhuman cruelty, it can be remembered as a day of mourning, a period that changed the course of history (and not for the better) for people of pride and culture.
I am always torn, on such a day, trying to balance the feel-good celebration of generosity, of good food, of family get-togethers, while also feeling empathy with those who suffered under the heartless reality of colonialism. But the beauty of having lived a life which showed me that there are always several sides to a story has allowed me to learn to look for the positive, to turn over the shadow side and look for the light.
In my professional life we are approaching the end of a semester, a time when students who have not done well during the first 12-13 weeks are suddenly desperate to find points to ensure that they ‘pass the class’. As someone who not only loves the profession of nursing but who also has a deep respect for what it takes to be a nurse, I despair at this motivation. The goal should not be to ‘pass a class’, but to gain the knowledge, understanding, skills and attributes to move forward in the program and ultimately be prepared to be a competent, safe, caring practitioner of the profession. But we are in transactional times. What’s in it for me (WIIFM), is one way we have to look at the act of learning. Current students who have come of age in a time of the internet and search engines that provide them with instant answers (who cares where they come from) have no patience or skill at ‘studying’. Along with teaching them the pathophysiology and manifestations and interventions for multiple disorders, we also have to teach them how to learn.
But on the flip side, if you love your profession (both nursing and teaching), you may find that to be a challenge instead of a frustration. Instead of bemoaning the reliance on technology, you can use that same technology to challenge and inspire. You can turn your love of story-telling into an engaging and entertaining way to capture imaginations and make learning memorable.
One of the realities of human life is that it ends, although we somehow continue to be surprised and shocked by death. According to Buddhism, suffering comes from wanting things to be other than how they are (being attached to outcomes). Once we accept that many things, people and events are beyond our immediate control we can then try to control the only thing we are in charge of, our reaction to them. How we respond to the ups and downs of our lives, to the frustrations and stresses of everyday living can affect our health and wellbeing. Sometimes it may take practice to look for the bright side, to take a breath and think before escalating, but over time it will keep your blood pressure and cortisol levels down.
This Thanksgiving (or Day of Mourning) Weekend, I hope that you find plenty to smile for. When my children were small, their father often used the old Jamaican parenting tactic when a child would cry for ‘no reason’, he would threaten to give them ‘something to cry for’. When we recognize how much we have instead of what we don’t have, we see our lives for the richly blessed gift that it is.
Have a wonderful weekend, Family!