All aspects of the scene are still so vivid: my tiny self, sitting at the dining room table, filling out magazine subscription cards, while mom listened to my many future plans.
Was the intent of the cards to burden our mailbox with copies of Redbook and Chatalaine? Hardly. They were blank checks in my imaginary world, each one awaiting my all important and very grown-up signature.
Independence has admittedly been an obsession of mine from the outset. I actually begged my dad to build me my own house in the backyard as a kid. I mean, come on. He had his own masonry business. What could be so hard? And he’d built a house for our dog, Spanky, with real shingles on the roof and her name across the front. Didn’t I deserve the same consideration?
Of course, I understand now why he didn’t, but then?
As an alternative, Spanky and I would spend hours together squeezed tight into her little digs. I’d verbalize my vision to her at length as we both kept a watchful eye out for brazen foe (be that stray cats or my menacing brother).
I’m reminded of that tiny me quite often when faced with adult challenges, and one thing still remains the same: I love filling things out. In fact, for me saying good-bye to paper checks proved painful, almost like destroying childhood momentos. So sue me for holding tight to my last shred of Leanadom: that old-school transaction record from the bank. That’s right, I’m that person.
I loved playing grown-up so much as a kid that I appreciate every nuance of being the real deal today. I particularly like opening mail, because it transports me back to mom’s kitchen table. I still tend to stockpile envelopes over several weeks – just like I did those subscription cards, and when I finally get settled in to open them, we’re talking a bonafide event.
A stack of envelopes, a cup of hot coffee and my ceremonial Canadian letter-opener. I just adore the “schlit” sound it makes slicing through each and every seal, while individual stacks grow higher: one for garbage, one for the shredder, and yes, even a special one for bills.
Being an adult rocks, and I don’t take one iota of my freedom and independence for granted. I would even go so far as to say that the older I get, the more I love it. It’s everything I dreamed it would be plus some, and I’m so glad that mom got to see me revel in the experience. I only wish that Spanky had, too.
You can take the girl out of the doghouse, but . . .
You know the guy. The one who sits down beside you on a plane and doesn’t stop talking? Yeah, I spent two hours with him yesterday. Initially I wanted to scream, having planned to sleep during my early morning flight, but the conversation proved interesting.
We covered a lot of ground together (literally as well as figuratively), and I left with a nugget of a quote – one for the reactionaries among us who suffer from seemingly involuntary knee-jerks when things spill out of our control:
“DON’T JUST DO SOMETHING; SIT THERE!”
It’s nothing short of brilliant! Maybe you’ve heard it before, but I hadn’t, and I now plan to practice it at the first sign of trouble.
And is it just me, or are the reactionaries among us proliferating? Impatience – everywhere – and I’ve had enough!
Okay, all joking aside, short fuses now seem like the rule instead of the exception, with no one having tolerance for anything or anybody else. Maybe it’s because our culture is obsessed with instant gratification. Or it might be our steady decline in values. Perhaps even the highly contagious spread of apathy among Westerners. Whatever the reason, I’m a firm believer that we all just need to chill, which is why I love this quote, SO MUCH!
It’s going to happen again, you know. You’re going to be somewhere, and someone is going to piss you off. I firmly believe, however, that we can retrain our blood pressures to be more selective on what shoots them skyward.
I’ll admit that there have a been a few occasions when instantly doing “something” has been the right move, providing the right outcome, but if I’m totally honest, it’s more often been disastrous. That’s why, the next time I get my ire up, I’m going to take a deep breath and sit.
Actually, let’s start a movement: SIT FOR YOUR SANITY! Yes, it’s an oxymoron – movement and sitting – but don’t let that annoy you.
I know a few things about nurses. I am one, after all, but my mother, my grandmother, my aunt, a number of cousins – all nurses, as well.
Can I chalk up my 25 plus years in nursing to genetics? Maybe, but the superhero cape swayed me more than anything, and then there’s the powers that come with it.
Oh, don’t kid yourself. Nurses definitely have superpowers. Although I’ve personally assisted in resuscitating patients in the hospital setting, as most of us have, I once watched my mother revive someone in public. Full on – CPR on the ground – at a public event, and it worked! I was 20-years old at the time, and the cape she’d apparently been wearing for years became magically visible to me in that moment. I loved the color of the thing and the way it flowed out behind her without needing even a hint of a breeze. I wanted it. Not hers, specifically. I wanted my own.
But the superpowers don’t stop there. It’s 12 hour shifts – day in and night out – on our feet, often without a break. It’s dealing with people who are vulnerable and expressing that vulnerability as anger. It’s putting up with – dare I say it – physician’s egos and screaming rants when things don’t go their way. It’s risking our own wellbeing and safety by handling volatile and abusive patients and family members. And it’s one shit load of loss.
Old, young, newborns. We’ve transported them all to the morgue and have had to wander back out into society at the end of our shift and function with some semblance of normalcy.
The average person has no earthly idea what it’s like in the trenches of a nursing career, regardless of how many medical dramas they watch on TV. Each real life drama touches our hearts and souls in ways that profoundly affect our lives until the end of time. And each of us carries a handful of patients with us wherever we go – the ones that touched us the deepest before they passed. They’re our constant companions. I have five. My mother had four.
So do nurses deserve a week? Hell, yes they do. They deserve a week of recognition and a lifetime of gratitude and respect.
I left the bedside seven years ago to work in healthcare leadership development, but I’m incapable of leaving those 20 years of active nursing behind me. At times the accumulation of witnessed loss can be suffocating, even to this day, but I have no regrets at having been part of such an immensely rewarding community of people.
Hug a nurse this week, and let them know that although you can’t fully comprehend what life is like in their shoes, you care. Caring, after all, is the very fabric of superhero capes. Expressing it will make one visible on you, too.
HAPPY NURSES WEEK to all of the fabulous men and women I’ve had the privilege of working with at the bedside. And HUGS to those who have cared for me and my loved ones throughout our lives and eventually through to death. Each act, whether profound or simple, has not gone unnoticed. Not in the least.
You know the feeling – palms drenched, knees shaking, mouth so dry your lips stick to your teeth. Public speaking is the one thing that a large majority of us fear more than death. Actual DEATH!
In 2007 I journeyed from life as an ICU nurse to a job requiring weekly presentations. The night before my first “performance” literally left me tossing, turning and imagining every worst case scenario known to womankind. Amazingly, I survived, and I now speak to crowds of several hundred on a regular basis.
Did a few things get learned along the way? You betcha, and because I frequently get asked for tips after people watch my TEDx Talk, I’m going to bullet point some them for you here.
To get us started, however, let’s revisit the age-old expression, “Practice makes perfect.” It’s true, yes, but I’m not talking about the practice of getting up in front of people. I’m talking about practicing before you get up in front of people. That is my single most important piece of advice, although I’ll give you a lot more than just that.
- Practice over and over and over again, especially with new material. Practice always, and until your speech looks unrehearsed. Present to your dog, cat, canary or family member, but especially to your mirror. Practice makes your speech appear seamless and prepares you for possible slip-ups. It will also let you know what areas you need to work on and where to anticipate questions or comments. This one act is invaluable to success.
- Take a deep breath before you begin. Did you know that people tend to take only shallow, ineffective breaths when they’re nervous? Oxygenate and rejuvenate!
- When organizing content, follow this rule: tell them what you’re going to tell them (introduction), tell them (body of the speech) and tell them what you’ve told them (summarize).
- Address “housekeeping” items before you start to keep yourself from getting distracted – cell phones on vibrate, no laptops, etc.
- DO NOT read PowerPoint slides to your audience. You’ll lose them at the “Objectives” screen. Instead, list bullet points and talk around them. They can read.
- Watch out for filler words such as “um,” “ah,” “so,” and “like.” If you, like, use a word habitually in, like, conversation, it’s, like, going to, like, show up in your, like, presentation. This will guarantee to distract your audience to the point where they could care less about your intended message. You want your presentation to be conversational, but . . .
- Have someone tape you. Trust me, this is the best way to see all potential distractions, from filler words to annoying movements that distract.
- Accept feedback! Don’t allow yourself to get defensive when someone suggests ways to improve. In my early speaking career, someone told me to stop playing with my hair, and I had no idea I even did that! Although secretly perturbed, I ditched the habit.
- Water! If it’s a long presentation, keep some nearby, and don’t feel self-conscious about stopping to drink. It beats having that dry, hacking cough come out of nowhere.
- Make eye contact with as many members of your audience as you can. Concentrating on just a few can make them feel uncomfortable.
- If you’re asked a question, and you don’t know the answer, admit it and promise to get back to them. You’ll gain respect and a reputation for being genuine.
- Use humor to lighten the mood, but resist using scripted jokes. Let your humor flow naturally, like it would in conversation.
- Remember – they don’t know what they don’t know, so your audience won’t notice if it’s not a perfect presentation. And it’s okay to slip up. Just acknowledge it and move on.
- If your neck turns red when you speak, don’t wear a scooped or V-neck.
- This one might sound crazy, but if you’re super new at speaking, petroleum jelly on your teeth can keep those dreaded dry lips from sticking to your teeth.
- Don’t take yourself too seriously. Be lighthearted and willing to let go of perfection.
- Expose yourself to opportunities. Joining a community club, such as Toastmasters, can really accelerate your skill level.
In summary, public speaking can be the ultimate outside-of-the-box experience, which can only lead to strides in personal and professional growth. And make no mistake, those who do it well were once where you are now. By implementing the above tips, you can minimize anxiety and actually even have some fun with it. Yes, fun! When you truly connect with an audience, you gain just as much, if not more, than they do.
Practice + Practice – Perfectionism = Positively Entertaining
One year ago today, I had my last drink. Me. The girl who loved all things wine. Why? Because my relationship with it became dysfunctional.
Like any great love affair that turns toxic, it was an insidious shift. For one thing, we’d started spending far too much time together, causing me to lose all sense of self and wonder how my dreams had taken a backseat. For another, most of that time had morphed into the clandestine variety, sneaking away – just the two of us – to avoid judgement or repercussion. All-in-all, grape – the friend who had accompanied most of my good times and bad – became controlling, and it was literally causing me pain. You know, the pounding variety that pulsates between temples leaving its victims couch-bound on perfectly good weekends.
Was the break-up an easy one? No, not at all. It came with all of the usual fanfare: tears, longing, loss. I don’t fit in with some of wine’s friends anymore, making them somehow feel uncomfortable in a way I hadn’t expected. And then there’s having to really experience emotion without something there to take the edge off, whether facing the loss of loved ones or simply having an awful day. But, oh the rewards.
There is that three or four month mark after a break-up when the dust begins to settle and you start to breathe again. Then there’s a phase of rediscovering the person you’d been before the dysfunction ever started. And finally comes the glorious rebirth of someone that you didn’t even know you had the strength to become. Well, I’m breathing again, my friends. Big alveoli expanding breaths of joy.
A little over a year ago, a friend whom I have the utmost respect for, posted a blog about quitting drinking. I didn’t know she’d quit or that she’d felt the need to, but that post planted a life changing seed. It then got watered by someone I hadn’t seen since high school who confessed that he’d given up alcohol, followed by, “I have no idea why I just told you that.” I knew exactly why. It was something I needed to hear.
Sometimes we don’t find the courage to escape a bad relationship without stories of those who’ve gone before us. For that reason, I’m sharing.
A great many people can be an acquaintance of alcohol’s and never give it a second thought. They manage to see each other on occasion and even have a few laughs. Others, however, commit to the relationship almost unaware and then start to feel that there’s no way out. I’m here to tell you that it’s doable, and that “fulfilling” would be a gross understatement when describing my life without it.
Quitting drinking is one of my all-time top life decisions. Do I miss it? Sometimes, but rarely. And again, like a toxic lover, seeing it may give rise to temptation and longing, but nothing is ever worth going back.
And by damn, you can find love again. Sobriety is now my knight in shining armor.
If alcohol coerced you down the aisle at some point, you’re not alone. Think annulment. Consider divorce. There is a thing called Google, and there are resources.
And THANK YOU to the people who inspired me to have the best anniversary of my life. This girl has no regrets.