Thursday, January 7, 2016

Bike, Work, Soap

Hello friend,

It’s been a long, long time.  For the past 7 years, I updated my blog at least once a month… to update you on the Tiff-happenings.  I haven’t written since March.  A lot has happened. 

I went to a funeral today.  My great uncle passed away on Christmas day.  It was unexpected.  It made me think.  It made me feel.  It made me wonder... if today were my last day on earth... would I regret not doing something, saying something, or reconciling something.  

I try to live everyday without regrets.  I try.  I don't always succeed.  

I started this post in May.  I added more every few months.  It's pretty crazy how much things have changed.  I wish I'd just posted the bits and pieces as I went along but I didn't so... oh well.  

I'm just going to "finish" it even though it might not really be "done".

There are seasons in our lives when we are training or preparing for something… and then there are seasons in our lives when we need to do what we’ve trained/prepared for. 

Two analogies. 

I mountain bike occasionally.  I’d like to do it more often.  I haven’t ridden a bike hardly at all since April.  There's quite a difference between saying you're a mountain biker and actually mountain biking.  It's easy to call myself a mountain biker.  It's not so easy to actually do it.  So there’s a route that I often take with a friend.  I’ve done it maybe 3-4 times.  Each time was different… but the last time I rode it… it was very different because I rode it alone.  My friend and I were supposed to meet up and go together but stuff happened and it ended up I had to start by myself.  It was scary.  I’d done it before so I knew where to go but it’s different when I’m not following someone else’s lead.  There’s also no signal during the ride.  Once I start… I have to finish otherwise my friend and I might not be able to find each other.

This particular route has some fairly decent hills.  They’re not impossible, but they’re also not super easy for a rider at my level.  I know it’s not just me… but I enjoy doing things with other people… especially working out.  I will quit so much faster when it’s just me by myself.  The route starts out fairly flat.  It isn’t so hard at first.  And then the hills start and there’s one climb after another with small breaks in between.  Every single climb everything in my body wanted to take a break.  My legs were burning, my heart was pounding… and in my mind I wanted to just unclip and stop… no one’s looking.  No one cares if I stop or not.  But I kept hearing my friend’s voice… “just take it easy.  Breathe.  Almost there.” And I also heard another friend’s voice… “push, then pull… push then pull… all the way up the hill…” and I was able to make it… one hill at a time. 

Midway up one climb… the chain came off the gears.  I’m not sure what the technical term for it is.  It hasn’t happened to me very often.  The last time my chain came off, a nice man was passing by and he put it back on for me.  I looked around… there was no nice man to help me.  It was just me.  So I put the chain back where I thought it was supposed to go.  I tried to ride again but it came off again.  I almost felt like giving up at that point… but I decided to try one more time.  I put the chain back the way I thought it should be… and I started riding again.  It stayed on this time.  And I just kept going.  

Up and up and up.  Part of me kept wondering “am I there yet?” and looking around… I had my answer.  No.  I hadn’t arrived yet.  Keep going or turn back…?  Keep going. 

Despite my loneliness... and the chain coming off twice... I actually finished that ride with a personal record.  Amazingly enough.  It didn't feel like one tho... but just because it didn't feel like it... doesn't make it any less a personal milestone.  It's a PERSONAL record.  It's a big deal for me... even if someone else could have done it 10 minute faster than me.  

Second analogy.  

I was listening to the radio and the speaker was saying how a lot of being a Christian at church is like hanging out in a toolshed on the eve of a harvest.  We can hang out in the toolshed.  Pick our tools.  Learn new techniques.  But were we meant to stop there?  Weren't we in the toolshed in the first place in order to actually go out and harvest?  There's a time to be in the toolshed... and then there's a time to take those tools, use them, and be a farmer... harvest the crop we've sown.  That is the whole point.  

I've been struggling a bit with my identity this year.  There have been moments recently where I've asked myself "who am I?" and I honestly couldn't say I recognized myself.  Struggling with my identity feels a lot like... I'm standing in a dark room.  I can't see anything.  I can't feel anything.  There's just a whole lot of nothing.  I'm going with the flow of... something... that I don't even know.  

I am a nurse practitioner.

When you're in school to be a nurse practitioner... it's hard... but it's still protected.  I had plenty of meltdowns in nursing school.  I left clinicals crying my way home.  This past April... I cried at work... in the middle of a meeting with my preceptor and my director... as they were trying to tell me how to be better at my job.  It hit me in the middle of the meeting that I was in the middle of remediation.  Which meant that I was about to fail at my job.  I've never really failed at anything.  

The first month I started working there was a record low in the number of surgeries we had.  I think we only had 7 surgeries the entire month.  That meant that my preceptor and my surgeon could spend more time teaching me and showing me things.  It was amazingly good timing for me.  

The second month I started working, it got really busy.  We had 21 surgeries.  Seeing as we try not to do surgery on the weekends, that meant that there was at least 1 surgery per day that I was working.  For the most part though, the patients were fairly healthy.  It was pretty quick turnaround.  Got 'em in... got 'em out.  Since the volume of work was so heavy, and also since I was still so new... my preceptor slowly gave me more and more responsibility, but we worked together.  Side by side.  I got a crash course in what it looks like when my job is busy.  I got a chance to put into practice what I had learned theoretically the previous month.

In the months to follow, my work got "easier".  Or more like I was starting to get used to it.  Things were fairly manageable... and then April hit and we got SUPER DUPER busy.  We had a record high 31 surgeries in April.  That meant that there was at least one surgery everyday... oftentimes two in a day.  My cardiac surgery ICU only has 4 beds in it.  If I'm receiving two surgeries a day for multiple days in a row... it got harder and harder to find space for the patients.  And our patients were really sick.  Many of them needed more than our usual 2 days in the ICU.  I had patients everywhere.  And more coming.  It was in the middle of April that I found myself completely and totally overwhelmed with my workload.  I really couldn't handle it.  In the middle of that meeting... I had a meltdown.  I cried.  Pretty hard.  The overwhelming sense of failure was oppressive.  And not only that... having my director and preceptor tell me, in a VERY nice way, that I need to do better... was almost like adding a crushing weight on top of an already oppressive situation.

At the end of the meeting... I had a whole big list of things I needed to do in order to do my job better.  And... the only choice I had was... to just do it.  My superiors made it very clear to me that they wanted me to do well and they wanted me to succeed.  I could take their feedback in two ways... (1) let it crush me (2) let it make me better.  I chose to listen, put into practice what they told me, and just TRY to do my job better.  I wasn't sure that I would actually BE better but I could try.  So I did.

I had moments during that month when I felt really lost.  I felt like I was drowning in my work.  It was hard to smile.  It was hard to do anything other than put my head down and just work, work, work as much as I could.  I can barely remember what happened in April.

The following month we had another 21 surgery month.  It got better.  I heard their voices telling me what I needed to do.  And at our next remediation meeting, they both told me that I'm doing a lot better.  Praise Jesus.  I'm thankful that things got better fairly quickly.  I was talking to one of the charge nurses a few weeks ago.  She told me that when I first started, she thought I wasn't going to last.  But she said that recently, it's gotten a lot better and she said she could see us working together as a team.  While it was somewhat shocking to hear someone else see me like that... it was reassuring that she verbalized that she saw a change and that it was for the better.

I still have a LOT to learn in my role... but I think that things have gotten a lot better at work.  April and May were like trial by fire.  Thankfully things slowed down a little after that and I could process a little more.

Things got crazy again in October and November.  December has been a little bit better but all in all, work has been pretty tiring.  I'm still learning a lot everyday and whenever I have a particularly difficult day... I have to stop myself any chance I get... even if it's on my rare potty breaks... to close my eyes, take a breath and remember... that it is a great big blessing to have a job.  And also... if it were super easy, they wouldn't need to pay me this much to do it.  Choosing to be thankful has been a  good way to anchor myself to what is true... which is that I don't deserve anything... and that every good gift comes from above.

Speaking of gifts... if you've been on my facebook any time in the past 7 months, you'll notice another big transition in my life.  I started dating.  I guess I'd been going on dates for the past few years but now... for the first time in a long time... I have a boyfriend.  And it has been a beautiful gift from God.

I am a girlfriend.

If there were ever a time where you could say that stuff got real... it would be in a new relationship.

Let me just say that dating in your 30's is a lot different from dating in your 20's.  Or maybe it's because I'm different now in my 30's... and not nearly the same person as I was in my 20's.

Anyway... I think PB came into my life with beautiful timing.  During my first round of work hardships... he was there for me.  He didn't know me that well, but he took me out on dates... he planned fun things for us to do... and at the time, it was enough to distract me from the craziness of work.  Now that he knows me better and things have gotten crazy at work again... he's able to be a rock for me and to help protect and cover me throughout the workday and also afterwards when I need to just vent or cry or talk (or not talk) about the workday.  He might hear jibberish since he knows very little about what goes on in a hospital... but he listens.  And I like the sound of his voice.  He is the friend that came into my life when I was navigating through rough waters.  And now we're trying to figure out how to navigate life together.

Navigating life with another person in the boat has been a challenging adjustment, but it's been worthwhile.  I've learned a lot about myself.  I've learned a lot about relationships and marriage.

One of the most important lessons I've learned is that making decisions based on wisdom and character is more worthwhile than making decisions based on my feelings.  Feelings are important, but they come and go.  Being wise about my decisions means I need to be rooted in the source of all wisdom as much as possible and also collaborate with other wise people to help me figure out the wisest course of action.


There were moments in the relationship where I had no idea what I should do.  I didn't know whether or not I was supposed to continue in the relationship or to leave it behind.  Things were difficult.  Conflicts seemed to be everywhere and I didn't know if we'd ever agree on a resolution.  At some point... I became so conflicted that I got angry.  I was frustrated.  I didn't know what else to do so I lashed out in anger.  For 3 days straight.  I yelled.  I was difficult.  I was argumentative and unyielding.  And I hated being that way.  I was just so tired of being sad, but being angry didn't help at all.  I ended those 3 days feeling worse about myself and about the relationship.  And then... there was the soap.

So... My friend gave me this interesting kind of soap from that fancy soap store "lush" or something like that. It's supposed to be a mix between shower gel and a bar of soap but it feels a lot like a jello jiggler that you're supposed to rub on your body like a bar of soap. It's also this ugly shade of poop brown and smells like candy. Anyway. I was thinking about trashing it and buying normal body wash but I haven't. I've been using it because I didn't want to waste it. And today I showered with the loofah mittens and grabbed the jello soap and after a while the mittens became soapy and I didn't have to rub the weird jello soap all over my body cuz there was enough soapy transfer onto the mittens so I could take a normal shower. 

And because a picture is worth a thousand words... That's the shower jelly. It looks disgusting.

As weird as it sounds... I feel like maybe my boyfriend (or any other situation where things weren't what I expected...) is my weird jello soap. Maybe I just need to change my perspective on it even jf it is just for this season. It is still soap and it will still serve its function. Just need to figure out how to work with it and not get hung up on the weird things about it. Even though I might not have bought this soap for myself... Maybe in this season where I don't have normal soap... I can figure out how to use the weird soap so it's not just sitting around doing nothing... It's serving its purpose.

After I had my soap realization... I decided that I was going to make the most out of the relationship. I wouldn't waste it.  I would learn what I could... I would make the most impact possible... I would love with all I had in me... I would try and behave in a manner where if I looked back on this season of my life, I wouldn't regret what I'd done or said... and most of all, I would try to enjoy the relationship as much as possible.  Regardless of what happened... if we continued the relationship or ended it... I wanted it to be a good experience for the both of us.  I wanted for both of us to get through this season convinced that it was worthwhile and beneficial and if we ended it, we'd end it together knowing that separating ourselves would be the best and wisest course of action.

That was the turning point.  It wasn't necessarily about streamlining the journey to get to the destination... it was about enjoying the process and soaking up everything I could along the way.

When things get hard, I realize that I do hear wisdom coming to me and telling me what to do.  Forgive.  Discern.  Love.  Extend grace.  Be clear.  Communicate.  I might not know exactly how each specific situation will resolve, but I do know how I want my actions to be characterized by.  I want them to be full of love and grace.

I'm so tired now.  I'm not even sure if anything made sense but this post has been sitting in my drafts for 9 months so I'll just post it... if anything so I can finally start a new one.

Hope you all are well...

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