Gifts from the Frontlines...
For those who show up...however they can for love
I admit that I may have a problem...I love my life and what I do but... sometimes my need for distraction gets a little alarming. Police procedurals work well. I like the ones, which are not too bloody, and generally where they get the bad guy (or girl) within the 45 minute format. I am not above "Cozy Mysteries" in the English genre traditions, too. Science fiction is also a good fit for me as I like science and new, interesting ways of thinking about humanity and our collective learning edges. All these shows reinforce my idea of a hopeful but, indeed, changing world; they also relax my mind, a bit, and take me out of other people's stories, of which I hear quite a lot.
They are also a form of rest. Restorative activities, ones that we can take in, are very important to find and employ. Right? Maybe digital detox can work in reverse. It eases the stories out of our heads and programs us with new stories...this can be good, as long as we are discerning in our choices, right?
But what is too much? Two shows? Four shows? Six in a row?
Let's set aside the addictive way each new show on Netflix (and other streaming services) rarely end on a satisfying note. They create a skillful climactic up tick that hooks and funnels you into the next episode (STARTING IN 3 SECONDS...). HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH?
More Qualitative than Quantitative: meditation as discernment
The real question that is up for me is: What is underneath my need for distraction? The answer could be very different on different bingeing...days. Maybe it is boredom? Or fatigue? My own lack of imagination? Maybe it is fear?
This is why I must meditate each day....to be awake to what I am doing and how I am using my time...because none of us have all the time in the world.
Here is another question that came to me from my spiritual director because she knows my need to strive. (I can't help it; efforting is part of my inbred prairie constitution.) Here it is. See if it changes your life, like it is changing mine.
What is the highest return on my soul's mission... &
(wait for it...) EASIEST for me to do? - Rev. Dr. Megan Wagner
Maybe the distraction is generative? Or perhaps, it is bridging me to some insight.
Maybe it is play.
Play Daily is a rule of mine. Play is part of the journey...actually maybe it IS the journey. What if, (and this is another question from that same wise woman...) it was of the UPMOST importance to the Universe, (to the Holy, to the Almighty, to the Holy One of Many Names,) that we are in play and joy?
What if that was the ultimate use? It is an important question, right up there with how much MORE can I do? More. More. More, which leads to the idea that we don't have enough ...or are not enough just as we are.
It is good marketing, of course, for product sales but not fodder for the good life. Gratitude is fodder for a good life. It is a superpower.
My Playtime: Did I mention that I am recording an audible book?
(I am also binge watching a Canadian Sci Fi series called The Travelers, which is a kinder and gentler bodysnatchers who are trying to save the world in 3 seasons. It is thoughtful...and a lot of fun.)
Have fun today... that is our job, too.
I have started a daily practice of gathering serendipitous wisdom from the day. I have a plan to create something more public–perhaps a video or audio daily live chat called "The Good Enough Daily". It is on a long list of possibles: TBD.
But until then, let me tell you about them on the hopes that it may inspire you to do the same. Here are some I use...there are so many card decks out there...
I draw cards as part of my waking up process...usually with coffee. They are part of my own spiritual practices each day to help me taking care of myself...and keep my inner balance as I take care of many each day as a hospice chaplain.
This is also for the fifteen MILLION unpaid caregivers who are doing the daily, chaotic work of caring for their infirm loved ones.
Much like my weekly sound meditations in San Francisco, I listen for what is 'in the room'. There I ask people to <quickly> check in:
It's a form of meditative improv in service of love. So is drawing cards every morning.
Improv 'What is" is one of the rules in the Fieldguide. Any of its many forms of implementation is a good practice for me. You see my (prairie, bootstrapped) inclination is to want to get 'it' perfect and over prepare for whatever...
Life is not that way. All I (and you) have to do is show up knowing we are enough...and worthy to be participating in what is in front of us. Then we do the best we are able. Both (preaching) ministers at my Unity Church in San Francisco are stellar at improv on the stage...but for me it is a learning edge.
Because we all have our edges. At last Sunday's meditation, several people spoke about the edge between what shows up in the world and what shows up inside us...and then there is the pause. This is the place of choice...do we choose to react, respond? Are we triggered? Are we needing to be right? This is the same edge for us all.
Reading the Day
It is in same way that I draw several cards from my various (and lovely) spiritual card decks each morning and take a moment (but not too many moments...) to see if there a pattern to the cards drawn. I then read this wisdom and speak about it for eight minutes, because who has a lot of time in the mornings?
...and I have theme music, too. "Good Enough" by Karen Drucker. She is awesome, if you are not familiar with her as both a songwriter and a performer. Check out her song if you want a lift to your day.
An eclipsing moon in the East greeted me when opening my door to the still dark day. Before early morning chores (before I fed my two cats—Smith and Wesson, before even coffee…), I saw, but did not know, if the show was almost done or just beginning. However, I knew with a different part of me that it was to be spectacular.
This is the oh-so-human way of discerning: head and heart. These days, as a hospice chaplain, and caregiver to caregivers, I listen more carefully now.
The eclipsing heart is unbalanced... (read more...click below)
The Kaiser palliative RN symposium where I was speaking about resilience for pro caregivers...and my book...was easy (and went quite well) once I stopped reading my notes and spoke from my heart. I don't know how many times I need to learn this lesson—speaking with people, not at them.
It is so easy at bedside in hospice (or supporting my bereaved) to still my noisy mind, listen deeply and respond from that place...or let the space be empty. In good design, they call it "white space".
But... it feels so different when sixty-five palliative nurses are watching you, waiting for my amplified words to fill the gap between us—my words.
Oddly, it's not. As a chaplain and a woman of (growing all the time) faith, I agree with the radical French Jesuit theologian, paleontologist and geologist, Teilhard de Chardin, when he said:
"We are spiritual beings, having a human experience."
If that is true (and I have ample life, bedside and death bed evidence of this), then there is just one of us here, or at minimum we are nuclear family. My point about speaking up (and speeches) is that we are all among family—all the time.
Sweet, right? (And, it's a better tactic than imagining all of you/us naked...)
I am preparing a collaborative series of presentations around my new book and working with a dear friend to accomplish it. It is great (chaplain) fun to find common ground between the sacred wisdoms and with the highly actionable nature of neuroscience research.
Heart and head are powerful partners which change the planet...and certainly our lives.
This day long symposium is on resiliency in nursing.
These beautiful professional caregivers experience much of the same stress symptoms as their unpaid sisters and brothers on the front lines of love. But the opportunity to work with a true friend when doing this work (that matters...) is an exceptional thing.
My father was a wise man: John W. Hager
He is gone from this earth and has been for decades, but his words are alive in me. His saying about the quantity (of friends) that make one's life rich, flies in the social media's face. As a new author, I am validated by how many people sign up for messages from me (...and by all means, please sign up). Having said that, however, the magnitude of a nearby friend, one that shows up with treats when they hear a twitch in your best "I'm fine" survival voice, is measured on an earthquake scale.
The 4.8 earthquake (which woke me up last night) is felt by all. But only one more richter point and it is feared by all.
A true friend is a wonder...they gently turn post-traumatic-stress from disorder to order...and growth.
(or maybe even some fun.)
The amazing thing about being an author is to see the progress that your book is making. It is making its way into the world. It offers the notion that we can change how we do caregiving.
It's a big order... to care for yourself while you are caring for a loved one who has fallen ill. Most of us don't practice resilience but (with luck) restoration and reconstruction at the end of the day...or week or month.
It takes a toll. It's traumatic and it can make you resilient; post traumatic growth is possible. I offer my rules as gifts to you, those fourty-four million Americans who are trying to navigate this tricky shoreline.
Check it out on Amazon. (Search for EM Hager)
Helping incurs debt.
According to Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, helping is very different than serving. When you go all Florence Nightingale on your beloved, it is hard to take. You want to help but this help is not helping—or you could help so much more.
It's messier. It takes a bit more time but serving is infused with respect...and trust.
ASK them if what your doing, needs doing, or is it helpful? Asking gives them control. It turns into serving—as a peer and an equal. When I fix, I am telling them that they are broken.
"We serve life, not because it is broken, but because it is holy." —Mother Teresa
They are not broken...they are just ill.
Good medical care is changing in a similar manner. State-of-the-art hospital are instilling empathy into their employees. Check out this Cleveland Clinic video. It is about being in the moment...respecting the person with dignity. Unlearning Certainty is a rule that is essential for empathy—that you can use to heal.
Dr. Remen further explains good health (for everyone) is about collaborating:
"When I fix a person I perceive them as broken, and their brokenness requires me to act. When I fix I do not see the wholeness in the other person or trust the integrity of life within them. When I serve I see and trust that wholeness. It is what I am responding to and collaborating with." Noetic Sciences Review # 37
Fixing is a form of judgement and it creates disconnection... and that's the last thing we want with our loved one.
Healthier for us, too.
When we collaborate with our loved ones, we have a better shot at the gold standard of caregiving—healthy resilience—than if we try to fix.
Promises, Promises, Promises...
If you are reading this new blog, it is likely you are (either my brother, Ted...) or a caregiver who as randomly found this post via search engine serendipity. Welcome.
I have been where you are—the stressed out caregiver who is just trying to hold their house (of cards) together for themselves and their ill beloveds.
You are hard to reach...but I am persistent (and clever).
I remember when it was so for me (so hard to listen...) and get any information because I was on 24/7 duty with too little sleep, and too many worries about how I was going to manage. I felt very alone—even in the middle of friends because I wasn't thinking, I could ask or really even deserved the world's help. Hey, don't be too hard on my hard head. I am from the Oklahoma prairie and (even having lived in The San Francisco Bay area for decades), the rugged individualism is a persistent taproot in my garden.
But the equally perennial and persistent question is how to use what I know—to support you?
I have taken what one of my gurus has recently posted in The Marketing Seminar:
"It’s about connecting the dots for someone, using the dots they know. " —Seth Godin
Seth is talking about marketing in the quote...but, as usual, his reach is greater. As a hospice chaplain and a long-time caregiver in the trenches of love, I know stuff.
I promise you, in this blog, that I will use all the (considerable) dots at my disposal to serve you. Which is very different than helping...or fixing, but that is the next blog post.
Best blessings on your day,