On Dying


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I was in the presence today of a dying person. No, not like you and me–I mean actively dying. We are all dying of course, but this is part of my hospice volunteering, my first day meeting with my new patient.

It’s not at all like being a paramedic because we aren’t given much: only a name. No diagnosis, no real history, no nothing. Of course, I’m not your average volunteer, so I can deduce some things. But, I’m not there to fix really. Only to sit. And maybe to provide some small comfort, maybe some smiles and to help a caregiver get some respite.

In this case I am reminded how much we can tell by someone’s eyes. They may not be able to speak much anymore, but their eyes speak volumes. And maybe they aren’t able-bodied any longer, but it is easy to remember that this same person was someone else, someone before they were dying.

They were like you and me: laughing loudly, arguing, dancing, quilting, walking around, loving, working and most of all–living.

It makes me wonder why people spend time while they are alive wasting it on unhappy things. On things that upset them. On things that they can never reclaim. On people who will never care enough. Why I did.

I need to spend more time living while I’m dying. Because we never know when it will be our turn that the dying will become active. Or maybe the living will simply stop.

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Joy Through Sacrifice


Watching an interesting TED talk today about a young Arctic surfer (yes, you heard me right, that was Arctic surfer), he said something that really struck me–not about surfing, but about sacrifice. As you can imagine, someone who surfs in frigid waters does a fair amount of sacrificing.  He does it in part to get away from the normal tropic crowds, but also to take these amazing photographs. To paraphrase very loosely he said something like: most things worth any kind of real joy usually involve some kind of sacrifice.

That gave me pause.

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I began thinking about some of the things that take sacrifice but bring joy:

  • 9 months of carrying a baby: the worrying, the weight gain, the hormone shifts, the vomiting, the swelling, the potential dangers involved…
  • being in a relationship: any kind really. It’s constant ups and downs, bargaining (with the kids, partners, co-workers, family members), tears, give/take, compromises, giving away parts of yourself at times
  • having a dream or goal: these can take huge amounts of time, money, changes in lifestyle and re-evaluating ourselves for the final outcome
  • moving somewhere new: leaving friends and family behind; leaving a career or job, doing something scary, taking a leap of faith
  • starting over (with a job/a person/or alone: leaving your comfort zone, stretching parts of yourself you may not know you had, or totally remaking yourself
  • helping others or someone else: living with less than normal, learning about other cultures (which maybe is uncomfortable), focusing less on “me”
  • giving up something completely: getting used to life “without”, feeling what it’s like when others perceive because we are now “different”
  • changing our point of view for the greater good: getting into arguments (political/family?), battling within ourselves over the old point of view, reconciling what’s right/wrong
  • coming out: about our sexual orientation, addictions, mental health, illness, abuse, political view or anything else we’ve been keeping inside for fear of judgement, shame or condemnation
  • sharing our home with animals: limiting our work day, getting up in the middle of the night, cleaning up hair, poop and vomit off the floor
  • Waiting: for anything you want, it can be excruciating at times because we are a culture of wanting everything now, having patience is like hot iron swirling in our bellies…the loss of precious time while we wait
  • standing up for what you believe when others around you don’t agree: this can be going to rallies or being a vegan, it can bring agitation or arguments from others, confrontations or simply tiresome questions
  • sharing our home with children: never having peace and quiet (or rarely); suddenly realizing you have to sacrifice so much and become a very good teacher when you hardly know yourself (or much else for that matter…)

There are so many more things…what can you add to the list? And it all comes down to mindset like anything else really. We give to get. Nothing comes easily really.  It seems like many things feel like work these days, and trying to pick out the little pieces of joy can be tough. But when you think about the sacrifices we make all adding up to something beautiful–that it’s the wrapping surrounding the gift inside, then it doesn’t feel quite so much like drudgery. 

So when you are climbing that next mountain and it feels like hell: the boots are giving you blisters, the sweating like a banshee and the mosquitoes buzzing around your head: remember that when you get to the top you will see this incredible view of the world below. Every step you took to get there was worth what lies before you as you look out. See it as you breathe the joy and try to remember that you couldn’t have experienced the splendor without a bit of pain.

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Ooo Fire!


My new toy.  Because I was spending too much time watching Prime videos and not enough time reading, it was time to rectify the situation. In fact, I love to read! But returning books to the library or buying them all the time wasn’t feasible. This was the perfect solution. 

Soon I will be fully unemployed again  (sigh) with too much time on my hands. So in between looking for jobs and my usual routine, I can squeeze in some reading. I’ve already knocked off three books.

And I will go get a library card and check out their electronic loaning system. Apparently I can download them to my Fire?! Perfect. 

So, if I am digital, at least I’m not simply wasting my time for hours just watching movies. I’m also trying to volunteer at a nature preserve….

Hopefully my brain won’t just frizzle up into a ball of mush while I’m home.

Photo Shoot


I wonder if they will let me do the shopping today? This place is cool because it’s dog friendly as long as we behave.

That’s the owner on the left. Totally nice chap actually, but I liked his canine friend better. Unfortunately he wouldn’t sit still enough for a photo so it was just me. I do take a nice one if I don’t say so myself!

The Good, The Bad…


These are my new work shoes. Standing all day can be tiring, so I treated myself. It was interesting going into a big retail store–one of those gigantic chain athletic stores to find something. Now that I work in retail again, I could scrutinize the employees from a point of view as a customer doing similar work. Of course, I often evaluate these situations being a student of human behavior, but today I came at it from a purely retail perspective.

I interacted closely with two employees and had two totally different experiences. This store has no-one specific helping in the shoe department–they just mostly expect customers to wander around by themselves and randomly check things out. And then, if you should perchance find something you like, you can try it on yourself…OR if you don’t–then you might be lucky and find someone to help you. Maybe…

While I was doing the first option a young male employee came over to me and asked if I needed help, so I explained to him that I was looking for a shoe to stand in all day. I tried to explain to him what I was looking for, but he was very eager to show me something he thought would be the right shoe. So I looked at it (because I didn’t want to let him down)  and immediately didn’t like it (it was white and not my style of sneaker), but at least he tried to be helpful and nice.

So I kept wandering, found finally found the sale section! There I came across some decent running shoes in my size that would work. But I also came across another pair of moccasins that I thought were pretty cool. Sadly, they didn’t have a price tag, and I feared this could mean a great hassle in the check out. I liked them enough though, and have very few shoes since moving (I gave tons away before I did) that I figured it worth trying to get a price.

I flagged the next employee down I could find…another young man. He seemed rather put out, but said he would see what he could find out. He came back rather quickly and said: how much do you want these shoes (well actually I wouldn’t have asked if I didn’t want them dude) because it’s going to take me a really long time to figure out a price, and honestly (uh oh…lying) the last time I looked at the price tag it said like $100. I said: $100?? Really?? He said: Yup. Hmmm…??  I said: Never mind then.

My guess is he was simply too lazy to do his job and get the real price, which I doubt was $100. So, they lost a sale. But I did find another cute pair of shoes on sale instead.

When I got to the check-out the first guy was there and he rang me out. He remembered me and we chatted. He tried to get me to fill out some points thing (which I didn’t, even if I did let him down) . And I over heard him talking with another customer how he had been in recovery and clean for a while. He was friendly and did his job well. Took it all very seriously. World of difference from the other dude.

I suspect this guy had hit rock bottom in his life so he knows the meaning of gratitude. He doesn’t mind doing what he’s suppose to do, or helping out some old chick looking for a pair of shoes for work. He probably would have looked up the price of the moccasins for me and they would have sold 3 pairs of shoes that day. Oh well…instead, I had a good customer experience with him and will fill out the survey and say he did a nice job…whereas they other fellow did not.

 

 

Like A Dummy


No-one like to feels like a dummy. But I think we all can agree that the first day of any new job can make any of us feel that way. Even if it’s a job that we may have experience doing, but especially if it’s something new or if we’re rusty doing it. Then, it’s easy to feel like we’re back in elementary school when the teacher calls on us and we don’t know the answer.

Today was my first day at my new job! And mind you, I made a conscious decision to get out of healthcare! So I totally understood that I could make myself look silly starting over at something completely different. I simply could not take it any longer in a field that I personally feel is rampant with unhappy, over-worked and often petty employees.

So I began to apply to anything that remotely appealed to me or where I thought I might have a half a chance of getting a job. I had certain criteria of course: Part-time was preferable for the pets; close to home if possible; if it had to be a big corporation again, then hopefully it would be decent or have good benefits with it; and if I was lucky, maybe be something I actually wanted to do! Another dream part of the job, of course, would be if I ended up working with great people….

Well, I’ve ended up in a sweet little position working as a cashier at a local Farm market. The farm itself is huge and specializes in sustainability, organic vegetables and fruit, locally grown also, U-pick on the property, all sorts of local breads and other wonderful items. What a difference working in a place that smells nice! It can’t compare to the smells on the ambulance!

They had a sign on the Cash register that said: Cashier in training, Be Nice! So they even have a sense of humor. As I bumbled along trying to figure out why they considered an avocado a fruit and which items were sold singly and which by the pound, my customers were very patient. And even though I thought I knew my vegetables pretty well having been a vegetarian for 40 years, a rutabaga looks pretty much like a turnip when you’re in a hurry.

A place that has a 21-year-old in charge because he’s been there since he got out of High School (he told me his goal is actually to become a fire fighter/paramedic–imagine that), can’t be all bad. And they even have an AED, so while the boss wants me to save him if he has a cardiac arrest, he wasn’t sure the batteries were working. Yikes. Stick with farming dude!

So while I was nervous and felt like pretty dumb at times, everyone was helpful and assured me at the end of the shift, I wasn’t fired yet. Even though I didn’t do a very good job wrapping the breads that came in either. Maybe it’s just the perfectionist in me? And this place seems to have my most/all of my criteria for jobs too? Time will tell…

But riding home in my car I thought: gee, I used to save lives didn’t I? I guess eventually I’ll get the hang of this won’t I? Of course I’m older now…but like we used to say in the back of the ambulance: just pretend you know what you’re doing and be nice. The customer/patient may not notice it’s not true…..

Back To Work 


Guess the house will be a bit different starting next week because Mom goes back to work. We will have to occupy our time with stuffed mice and resting and such until she gets home. Luckily she’ll only be working part-time this this time so we won’t be left alone as much. 

As you can see my brother is still annoyed about it, but he’ll get over it. It’s a nice little job working for a family run sustainable local farm in the market. Mom will be around all the fresh vegetables and fruits. Since that’s all she eats she seems pretty happy about it, so I’m trying to be happy too.

Who knows, maybe they even  grow organic catnip?