Sunday, October 10, 2010

"I realized I didn't know anything"

About 4am this morning, my 'problem' patient walked out of his room. He came up to the nursing station and just started chatting with me. This was not a norm for him. He had been pretty uncooperative and not very friendly, but something changed this morning and he decided he wanted to talk. So we talked. He explained his history of medical problems and how he has let his health get so bad. He said after his wife died earlier this year it just went down hill from there. "This fall we would have been celebrating 47 years of marriage" he said. He looked so sad when he said that, so trying to lighten the mood a bit i asked "so what was the secret to a 47 year marriage?"

He said, "she had me covered." I didn't really understand what that meant and i'm sure my puzzled facial expression gave me away, so he went on to explain. He started by telling he me that he would ask her to do something and she would just smile and say "yes dear" and he said as soon as he turned his back she was doing whatever she wanted. As he told me this, he started to laugh. He went on to tell me that she woke up everyday at 5:00am, made his breakfast, set out his clothes, made his lunch, had a thermos of hot coffee ready for him when he was leaving for work, and walked him out to his car to say goodbye. She did this everyday...what a saint! He started to laugh again and said, "after about 35 years of her doing this, i started to wonder why she did that for me everyday. Was it because she just loved me that much or was she just making sure i was really going off to work everyday? Well, whatever it was, i sure did appreciate it. She was amazing." This made me smile. He was this big gruff man, who still wore his wedding band, and in front of my eyes he turned into a big softy, and only thoughts of the love of his life could do that.

He talked about how in the last 6 months of her life she was in the hospital for almost 6 months straight, and he was there everyday. "It was hard" he said because his health was also not the best at the time and it was hard to see her suffer, "but i couldn't not be there for her." Because his health was deteriorating so quickly since her death, I tried to encourage him to start living a healthier life and eating better, and try to impress his wife while she's looking down on his with his new found cooking skills. He said he would give it a shot.

He looked up at me at the end of our conversation and said, "the day she died was the saddest day of my life, but not just for the obvious reason. After she died, I realized I didn't know anything. I had never written a check, paid a bill, gone grocery shopping or to the bank. I really didn't know anything and I realized that she did everything. I would never be able to tell her how thankful I was for everything she did for me and for us. I gained so much more respect for her after she was gone and wish I could have just told her."
Im sure she knew.

I don't know what bit of advice I can offer from this. It was just a great story and I wanted to share it. Maybe what you can take from it is to step back and look at everything the people in your life do for you without expecting a thank you or anything else in return. Recognize it, thank them anyway, and let them know how much you appreciate them.

Good luck in love.

If you have asked the question recently, "so what's the secret?" Please feel free to share.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Best Friends

"So whats the secret?" I've asked this to plenty of patients, and probably 75% of the people I've asked said, "I married my best friend." Is that where people go wrong now? They don't develop a great friendship before entering into a committed relationship?

I have been lucky, and although I can only count my best friends on one hand, they are amazing friends...all girls but oh well. In the last 6.5 years, I have lived with three out of my five best friends and there is NO way I could have done (and am still doing) that if they weren't truly my best friends. I lived with Nicole for four years, Arin (current roommate) for over 5 years, and Kacy (also current roommate) for almost two years. People say be careful because living with friends can ruin your friendship. This is probably true for people who aren't best friends. People who know everything about each other and love them despite all their flaws are best friends. That's what makes a successful friendship and one that will last a lifetime. We may drive each other crazy sometimes but at the end of the day we still love each other. The hreason I'm explaining this is because it applies in relationships as well...or at least i think so.

Think about it. Apply your experiences living with friends to living with your partner. Those people who were just kinda friends probably didn't work out so well, but those you truly loved worked out well. I can come home after a bad day and know i have two pairs of ears that would sit down and listen. This is what i want from my partner. The same friendship I share with my best friends, but not in a female form haha. You have to be able to support, listen, trust, and encourage each other to be the best possible version of yourselves or it just doesn't seem like it would work.

People say that after their kids have grown up and moved away they have nothing in common with their spouse anymore. What happened? Why don't you have anything left to talk about? Is it because you let the friendship go? You both started working towards one common goal, that is the raising of your children, you forgot about the couple.

You have to put work into any friendship to make it work, so why do people give up so easily on their most important friendship? What is going on? The saying 'bros before hoes' and 'chicks before dicks' may have applied in middle school or high school but when it comes to your partner, the person you have chosen to spend the rest of your life with, there is no one else who should come before them. I find it ridiculous that I actually hear those sayings come out of a grown adult's mouth. I'm serious. Yes your friendships are important, but don't dismiss your friendship with your partner because your guy or girl friends are putting pressure on you. In the end, yor partner is your family and your number one. There is no should chose your partner everytime.

Again, its all about balance. Balancing your relationship with your spouse with other friendships, work and school is difficult, but I'm seeing from these people I'm talking to that it's worth it. It seems to me that where people are going wrong now-a-days is they have their life and their spouse has his or her own life and they are trying to kinda join the two without them totally overlapping. When you get married, it goes from his life and her life to OUR life. You have to consider that person if everything you do.

As i'm going through this analysis of marriage and trying to understand it, it seems to be moving further and further away from something that is actually possible. Hmmm...i don't know. Is this making sense to anyone? Am i totally off track here?

Good luck in love.

"More Time"

I had one of the most heart breaking things happen to me a while back. I met someone who was actively dying of cancer. I asked her if I could do anything for her or if I could get her anything. All she said was "time" as she drifted back to sleep. That's all she wanted. Time. I wish I could give her time. I wish I had a magical wand to wave that would allow her to do all the things she wanted to do, so she would be more accepting of death.

This story reminds me of another person I met recently. She was an older lady who was confused most of the time. She had a moment of lucidity and told me how scared she was to be alone and how terrified she was of dying. What could I tell her? I wonder if she wished she had more time to do something. If she could rewind the clock a bit, would she do anything differently? If she did would she be more accepting of death?

We only have one life on this earth (well that's my belief anyway). Why do we waste so much time doing things we hate? If she looked back at her life, I wonder what she wishes she'd done less of. What would she have done instead? Would she wish she hadn't worked so many hours in a job she didn't love and spent more time with her family instead?

I think this is something everyone can improve on. Time management and prioritization. What do you love to do that you should spend a little more time doing?

I just recently turned 25 and that is a bit terrifying (I know to some of you that will sound stupid, but its how I feel). How am I 25? I could never envision myself as anything older than 20. on earth did I make it to 25? Will I look back at age 50 and think the same thing? Where did the last 25 years go? Did I make those years count? Did I spend the majority of my time doing things I loved? I hope I will be able to say yes to the last two questions. I hope I learn to manage my time better than I have been in the last few years. Whether its traveling, doing a hobby I love, experiencing new things and people, and/or having a family, I hope I'm happy doing it.

"Get married already"

One of my patients once told me to, "get married already and start a family." He was a gentleman dying of cancer and was one of those people who was very unhappy and pissed off at everything. After spending a little time talking to this gentleman, I realized he was just upset about lack of time. He explained to me he has had a great life and had great kids. His wife died, his children were in different states and he was alone. He was dying and he was alone. When people are lonely all they really want is to talk to someone and for that person to actually HEAR them. The reason they get angry and bitter is because they realize no one is willing to talk and no one really cares. So I decided to talk. All it took was a few questions and he was totally opening up to me and all his walls came down. It was a great thing. He asked me how old I was and after telling him he told me, "to start a family soon...when you're 71 and dying you are going to wish you had started sooner and had a few more years with your family." He explained those early years with his wife and his kids growing up were the happiest times in his life, and he wished the same happiness for me.

As I've made perfectly clear through previous blogs, marriage is a little scary. How am I supposed to hurry up and start a family already if I don't quite believe in marriage yet? frustrating right?! I posted something similar to this on facebook after he had said this to me, and someone responded with, "nah...traveling is way better." Traveling is amazing. I love traveling. But my response to him was something along the lines of, "I'm sure my Great Wall of China souvenir will offer me great support when i'm on my death bed." If all I do is travel for the rest of my life and don't settle down, what will I have in the end? Just a shelf full of souvenirs and some great memories with people who aren't there. I'm sure in my travels I would meet great people, but those people would be dispersed all through out the world and where would they be if I really needed someone? Everyone in my life seems to think its one or the other. Travel or get married. Why can't you just find someone to travel with? Not just to be my husband, but my travel buddy. What a perfect combination. Marriage does not equal death. Find someone who loves doing the things you do (or at least is open to doing them with you) and someone who will inspire you to branch out and try new things as well. Then "get married and start a family already." I don't want to be sitting there later in life thinking I wish I didn't wait until 35 to settle down and start a family. I guess you just have to make sure its right, do what makes you happy, and hope for the best.

To some of the nurses reading this (this doesn't pertain to every nurse obviously...just a few and maybe just a reminder for others)...
I realize nursing may have been your backup plan or a means to gain some stability in your life, but understand you are taking care of PEOPLE. I LOVE what I do and because I love it I pay attention. I pay attention to all of those nurses who complain about their patients being "annoying" or "needy" or whatever. They are patients. They are freaking out. Thats why we have a make them more comfortable. If you have a difficult patient, take some time with them. Its amazing what taking 10 extra minutes with someone upon the initial assessment will do for the rest of your day/night. I had a patient the other day who was constantly on her call light, anxious as anything, and annoying the crap out of the day nurse. I recognized it was just anxiety, went into her room, spent a little extra time with her, EXPLAINED everything to her (which the day nurse had failed to do, even after hanging a new IV medication), and she calmed right down. Her whole demeanor changed, just as my patient mentioned above. She stopped hyperventilating, her blurred vision went away, and her "neediness" level went down to a 1/10. Her hospital stay went from an awful one, to one that was a little more tolerable. Her level of commitment to her healing process went from virtually nothing and feeling like she couldn't do anything, to feeling so much better about herself and getting motivated to get out of there.
Sorry about my little rant...but its just something i've noticed that has been a source of frustration for me and i wanted to share.

Thanks for joining me in my journey to figure this part of life out.

Good luck in love.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Seeing the future

So I'm going to venture away from the advice from my patients....

As a nurse, I feel like I have a looking glass into the future everyday I walk into the hospital. I get to see people from every walk of life. People who probably had a life similar to mine when they were 24. Through my experience I have learned one major thing:

Always put your partner first (after yourself of course).

When I walk into my patients room, the person I see curled up sleeping in the uncomfortable reclining chair next to my patient is their husband or wife. They put themselves through hell just to be there next to you. They don't get great sleep, they are worried sick, and ultimately are putting their own health at risk...for you. Your partner is going to be the person sitting with you day in and day out in the hospital when you are old.

In marriage/family it is understandable to want to put your children first, but what i'd like you to take into consideration is the word "family". A family (traditionally) means two partners with or without children. If you have children and you and your spouse don't put each other first, the family that you have been building will be gone. Also, in the end your children will be grown up, have a family of their own to take care of, and can't be there 24/7 like your husband or wife.

Then there are those who people put their friends before their spouse. I'm 24 so maybe this is something I'm seeing because I'm younger. When you're 80 years old and laying in that hospital, it probably won't be your friends by your side will be your husband or your wife. Friends MAY pop in for a visit for an hour out of the 7 day stretch you were in the hospital, but they too have families of their own to take care of.

Earlier in this post, I wrote to always put your spouse first and in parenthesis "after yourself of course." But there are times when you have to put that other person first. You have to learn in a relationship to be a little less selfish and a little more selfless. Life is a balancing act and so is love. I believe to find a long lasting happy marriage there has to be this perfect balance that seems to be so hard to acheive. You have to take some you time, but you also have to take the time to make your spouse feel special and feel loved also. You have to learn to GIVE and take. Its very easy to take love and support and time from someone you love, but i'm finding its harder for some people to give. If you are one of those people, learn to give a little. Giving a little will go a long way in the end. It may not be in your nature, but if you love your partner try and make a habit out of it for their sake and for the relationship. Those I see celebrating their 50th anniversary have found that perfect balance. I'm sure it wasn't easy, but I'm sure it was worth it.

You and your spouse have to be each others rock of support. I hope everyone can take a step back and realize exactly what that person is to you and what they can be. Friends come and go. Children get families of their own. Life happens. Make your life about the person you fell in love with. They are the most important person in your life.

Good luck in love.

"Raising Men"

Something funny I've noticed...
When I ask women this question, they always make a joke about it. They'll say things like, "Finding the strength not to kill him" or "Oh I don't know, no secret really". They never give me a straight or serious answer.

But the men do. The men who have answered this question love their wives. Every time they answer that question this look goes over their face that's hard to describe and so heart warming. Its a mix between respect, love, and happiness. Its the best facial expression I've ever seen. I want someone to talk about me the way these men talk about their wives. The men are always a little taken back at first that I asked the question, they think about it for a second, and get that look on their face when they start to answer.

There was a man who long story short...couldn't talk. He was my only patient for the night and we sat up all night talking...well he would write and I would talk. He was probably the sweetest man I have ever met. We chatted about lots of things. Then he asked me if I had a boyfriend, and at the time I did so I told him yes. He told me to not settle. He told me that I deserve the best. I've heard this from a lot of people, but it meant so much coming from him. Since we were on the topic of relationships, I asked him, "So whats the secret?" He didn't answer exactly how I had expected. He told me that all men are idiots. Men are children in larger bodies. They don't know whats good for them, even if the best thing they will ever have is standing right in front of their faces. He wrote that when I get married, or finally meet the person I pick to spend the rest of my life with, that I need to "raise him". He said that I need to teach him how to really be a man, because like he said before...all men are idiots. It was funny that he was able to admit it. He said it took a few years of "raising" by his wife and quite a few mistakes and arguments, but he finally got it. He finally grew up. So maybe his secret was patience. In my, and whoever else may be reading this, learning process, I hope that we all learn a little bit of patience for our significant other. We all screw up, so learn to be patient with them while they figure it out. I imagine its not easy, but seeing the look on these mens' faces I know they think it was worth it and i'm sure their wives did too.

Back to the wives..that don't give me any answers. I don't know why they never give me a straight answer. Is it because women just naturally take care of their families and that to us its just natural to love unconditionally? Is it unnatural to men and that's why my patient told me he needed to have his wife "raise" him? Hmmm what do you think?

Best of luck in love

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

So Whats the Secret?

Being a nurse, I come into contact with a lot of elderly people who have had long-lasting, loving relationships. When I meet these people I always ask the same question, "So whats the secret?" Whats the secret to a long, loving relationship? Whether these people have been married for 20 years or 50 years, or if their spouse is alive or has already passed on...they all have something beautiful and unique to say.

I ask this question because I feel like something is wrong with relationships today. I feel like as a 24 year old woman in this society, I, too, don't have a lot of respect for marriage. I ask this question because I want to learn what it takes to have the kind of relationship that someone one day will ask me, "So whats the secret?" Even though I had an amazing role model for marriage, that is my parents marriage, I still have lost faith in marriage. We don't seem to have the same respect for our significant others that those of past generations have. It seems people just give up and think divorce is the sure fire way to fix everything. But is it really just a problem for todays generation? Is it because women today are finally able to support themselves and a family without the help of a man? Were our grandmothers or mothers miserable but couldn't divorce because of the financial strain it would cause? I hope not. I hope they stayed together because they loved each other and worked through the hard times so they could get back to the good times.

One of my favorite patients was an elderly man whose wife had passed away a few years back. He was very friendly and charismatic, but also seemed so lonely. He told me of he and his wife's adventures in France during the war. He told me what an amazing and independent woman she was. So I asked him, "So whats the secret?" He proceeded to tell me they had made a promise before they got married to never fight about money. "Money or lack there of can cause a lot of problems" he told me. I completely understood. I understand what it is to be stressed about money and if you point blame at each other or fight about who spent what, it will just get petty. So if you're reading this and you're in a relationship, married, or just dating around...take this man's advice. Promise never to fight about money.

Please share your "So whats the secret?" stories. Or if you're one of those lucky people who have a long lasting marriage, please share your secret.

I look forward to sharing what my patients have to say.