Living in the Moment

I recently explained to my husband the power and meaning of the phrase “be present in the moment.” Rather than having a mind stuffed full to overflowing with all the future plans and past conversations and mistakes and successes, being present in the moment implies that you are fully attuned to the world around you, experiencing the sensations and noticing the details.

Did you ever have a conversation with someone who kept glancing at his watch? Or notice in the middle of telling a story that the person’s eyes had that sort of glazed, unfocused look that probably meant they were daydreaming rather than listening? Even if the person repeats back every single word to me, it always feels like I was short changed in those moments. Like the person was leaving me only a tiny corner of their consciousness, and spending their best energy thinking about their dental appointment or the project at work, or mulling over what to have for dinner instead of living that moment with me. It is one of the chief dangers of living a busy life in a busy society. I’m as guilty of this as anyone else.

The scent of cocoa butter, the sounds of nature and Madonna on the tinny boom box, the feel of lake sand between my toes, the stubble of the grass poking up through the worn and tattered quilt we spread under the tallest tree in the state park, the way the sunlight dappled my skin. I can still taste the potato salad from that Memorial Day picnic with my family in 1985.

Some days I wonder if I will be able to remember my adult life at all, when I am old. It blurs on the edges, a slurry of appointments and nuisances and laundry left too long in the washing machine.

Tomorrow, I will accompany the grandmother who adopted me, Mom, who was always the mother of my heart, to find out the results of her neuopsychological evaluation for dementia. I don’t know the details, but I know the truth. I see it in the way she drifts out of the moment, not from having a short attention span, but because she just vanished for a moment, like a bright fishing bobber being pulled under the current. Tomorrow I will be present in the moment, and there is power in that, though not always joy.

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What’s Pink and Sweet and Warm All Over?

A nurse's work is never done.

A healthy newborn baby, of course.

Step one, on my plan to rule the worl- *cough* – er, I mean to become the greatest newborn nurse in the world has been completed. I finished the NCC nursing specialty certification exam last week with a passing score!

That’s probably not very enlightening unless you happen to be a nurse, so let me es’plain. As soon as the official paperwork arrives, I’ll no longer be signing “RN” after my name. Instead, I’ll be signing “RNC” to indicate that I’m an acknowledged expert in my particular specialty of nursing, which happens to be in the neonatal (newborn baby) intensive care. The test was difficult and exacting, the study was grueling but informative, and the rewards do not involve lavish riches (or even a tiny raise). It will, however, look nice on my application for the PhD program I have my eye on. It’ll also look nice on the plaque they have at work for the few of us who have taken and who maintain this national certification.

This also means that I (in theory) have a bit more free time. In practice, I have more time to devote to the dozens of other tasks on my long-ass list.

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How are your plans for world domin– er, self-improvement going?

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Busy, Busy, and the Meaning of No

I generally function best when chronically over-scheduled. At least I used to. Right now, I’m struggling a bit to find my center amidst the chaos that I’ve created in my life by taking on a project (or five) too many.

So what am I so busy with?

  • Studying for my NCC specialty certification exam, which will make me an RNC-NIC (instead of the regular RN), meaning I am an acknowledged expert in the field of neonatal (newborn) intensive care nursing. This certification isn’t required in my field, but it’s highly encouraged, and I’m hoping will give me a leg-up on the competition for grad school admissions.
  • Studying for the GRE – the grad school entrance exam. Now, normally I wouldn’t even bother studying for something like this. I tend to test very well, so even the big ones don’t usually cause me much concern, but it’s been about 17 years since I’ve seen some of this math and scoring above the 75th percentile will definitely give me a shot at getting a coveted fellowship in the grad program I’m applying to.
  • Preparing my application for grad school – I’ve decided to pursue a combined NNP (master’s degree that would allow me to sit for certification as a neonatal nurse practitioner) and PhD in research. The application process takes a while though. I need to gather professional letters of recommendation (really good ones if I want a chance at that fellowship), complete a resume, write a 3-page single-spaced statement of intent to explain why I want to be a PhD and why the school should want me in their program, take the GRE, and have transcripts sent from every college I have attended (which amounts to four, because I am old and studious).
  • Hosting an in-service for my unit and my sister hospital’s NICU, which involves 4 long days of teaching the same material over and over again to a couple hundred nurses. Sounds more boring than it is. So far I’ve learned a lot and gotten some good questions posed by the folks who are there to learn. Gotta love learning while you teach.
  • Revising the skin care policy for infants across two hospitals, which includes reviewing research literature, collaborating with experts, and figuring out what needs to be updated, why, and how to put it into practice.
  • Putting together a video game guild so I can play regularly with my husband and son. This might sound like a less important goal, but given how little free time I have these days and that this is one of the few areas where we can all interact with a shared interest at compatible times, trust me, it’s a vital one.
  • Getting help for Mom (my grandma) who has been having an increasing battery of neurological symptoms for years without a reasonable explanation. This means going to get her (110 miles away) and bringing her up here to the land of actual medicine at least once a week for appointments and tests. Four hours of drive time in the car, between the trip there and back, plus an unknown amount of time in the waiting room tends to suck a lot of my time away.
  • Still working as an actual nurse – believe it or not.
  • Trying to keep my house from falling down, the bills from going to collections, and the trash from burying us all because of the neglect all those things tend to suffer when I get really busy. While my husband is a very modern man when it comes to expectations regarding gender roles, he isn’t very good at the physical acts of cleaning, maintaining the house, supervising the kiddo to get his chores actually done, or managing the bills and finances. He helps me out in so many other ways that I give him a pass on this one, but it’s one of those situations where if Mom doesn’t do it, it doesn’t get done.
  • Keeping up with the kiddo at school – PTO meetings, parent-teacher conferences, etc are all filling up my fall schedule. Not to mention the dentist appointment, the optometrist, the annual physical, the school dances and functions…
  • Pulling a 4.0 in my bachelor’s program. It’s a lot of work, but at least I’m learning something, right? Well, mostly. Some of the classes are more work and more value than others. Some of them are more work and less value. Regardless, I am doing my best to maintain my GPA in range for that fellowship.

The Fellowship of the Ring

Ok, so there’s actually no ring involved.

The fellowship I keep mentioning, in case you were wondering, is a rare opportunity to study at graduate school with all tuition paid and a monthly stipend of $1400-1800 for the first year of your studies. This equals out to be about $25-30k of tuition and cash. It’s offered for two reasons: academic excellence, and diversity. The diversity fellowship applies to diversity for a whole host of reasons including but not limited to ethnic minorities, disabled students, and underserved populations. I have the GPA and credentials to qualify for the academic fellowship if I can pull a 75th percentile or higher score on the GRE. Given my heart condition, I may well be qualified for the diversity fellowship. As you can imagine, I really, really want this fellowship.

Now, qualifications aside, this is a seriously competitive opportunity, split across the entire school’s incoming graduate class. Even meeting all the academic minimums for consideration does not guarantee a win. It’s one of those things where you do the best you can, send in your app on time, and cross your little fingers and toes.

The Meaning of No

What I’m not doing right now:

      • Quilting for the quilt committee at work – my work hosts a quilt committee that allows nurses and other volunteers to make quilts to send home with the babies who have been in our unit for longer than a week. This allows us to provide the parents with a hopefully positive send-off after what was certainly not the start they had hoped for. I have completed quilts in the past but just don’t have time right now.
      • Picking up shifts for co-workers. I still pick up a few hours here or there on occasion, but I have been saying “no” more and more often in the past few weeks. My priorities right now are on the academic pursuits and my family, rather than working and my manager, whom I adore, (no, she doesn’t read this blog) is completely on board with that, leaving me a guilt-free way to say “no thanks.”

Best Buddies: Carrot and Wheatley

        • Fostering additional cats – we currently have Carrot and Poppy. Carrot is waiting to be big enough to neuter before going back home to his first foster-mom, my niece who found him when he was a week old. Poppy is waiting for a forever home, but is much too shy to tolerate being at the pet store on display. She’s a gorgeous orange and white cat, very loving and no trouble at all (unlike my twin boy kittens Fanti and Mingo). If you’re interested in adopting Poppy, let me know in the comments! I’ve told the Cat Adoption Team (C.A.T.) that I might be willing to take on a kitten or two in November (after I clear a few things off my plate) but no more fosters for now, please.
        • About 40,000 other things that I want to do, should do, or could do right now if only I had the time… like make a baby quilt for my niece’s soon-to-be-born daughter, read for fun, start prepping for a couple of research reviews and studies I intend to pursue on my own, become an ice cream taste tester, blog more,and hit the gym like I am supposed to.
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So yeah, over-scheduled, as always. It could be worse though. What’s keeping you guys busy this autumn?

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Struggling with the Future

I’m on the cusp of something, and it feels like creeping up on a new horizon… or a cliff.

As I approach to completion of my BSN (bachelor’s of science, nursing) degree, I’ve been looking into the option of going further. These days, nurse practitioners are going through doctoral programs. That means 4 years of full-time grad school, plus 500+ clinical hours, plus maintaining competency in the field of neonatal nursing in the meantime. It feels like an epic adventure just waiting for me to step outside my door, put my foot on the path, and let it carry me away. The one thing I’ve come to learn from decades of reading and writing fantasy is that there are always dragons or orcs or wicked witches waiting down that path.

My husband thinks I should not worry about it. Just go for it, and if it doesn’t work out… well, it’s only money. Lots, and lots, and lots of money. Plus time of course. And stress. Missed family dinners. Late night study sessions. A whole new pot of excuses to avoid the gym and opening the mail and doing all the other things I’m supposed to do but don’t really want to do. Not to mention the risk to my health.

My heart problem taught me a whole lot about limitations and unexpected strength, about perseverance and that sometimes the wiser woman chooses not to persevere. Frankly, it also taught me a lot about fear. Fear that I will spend $$$$$, years of my life, and uncountable volumes of my limited energy, and in the end it will all be for nothing. Fear that I will miss out on the things that really matter in my life while pursuing something that isn’t as important as I think it is.

There are no guarantees, of course, but I feel like this massive step forward in my career and in my life is worth considering from all the angles. That means professionally and personally. I want to look at the impact this decision, one way or another, will have on me, on my family, on my future, on the patients I will see as an NP or the ones I’ll care for as an RN, on the place I work and the places I will work in the future. And the truth is, in the end I can’t know any of those things. Unexpected consequences and circumstances and windfalls and just plain falls are part of life.

I am afraid to fail, of course. Who isn’t? I’m afraid that if I don’t go for it, I’ll be giving up on something that could be wonderful. I’m afraid of being paralyzed in this decision by… well,
all that freaking fear. But more than that, I fear succeeding only to find out that the Wizard is nothing but a little man behind a curtain who will show me that I’ve gotten it all wrong.

Maybe my husband’s right, after all. I should just put my arm through his and sing a little song as we dance our way down the yellow brick road, without a care for all the wicked, wicked witches who might be poised to rain winged monkeys on us.

OK, that metaphor got a little clunky, but what do you want? I’m not a writer anymore. I’m just a nurse who refuses to be ruled by that little voice inside my head that keeps playing the advocate for all my personal demons. I may fail, but I am not a failure.

Tomorrow, I’m going to sucker punch fear in the throat, put on some nice clothes, and head to the university where I will soon be applying for a doctoral program in nursing. I am going to go to the GRE prep session and the nursing expo. I am going to put my foot on the path and let it take me wherever it goes, because it is always the journey that matters.

Tonight, I’m going to hide in a good book.

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Um… nevermind

So you may have noticed that those site changes I mentioned last month never materialized. Yeah… about that…

I’ve been seeing a lot of writing advice lately about perseverance, and it got me thinking.

So I said to my husband yesterday, “I don’t think I am going to be a writer anymore.” He met this declaration with deep concern and sadness. I’ve been writing with the intention of someday making a go at the publication thing for almost a decade. I have a book that is done and polished and probably good enough to find a home somewhere. I have several other ideas that are partially written and/or ready to roll. And I am just… done.

I took a long, hard look at where I am in my life today. I’m going to school to finish my BSN this year, and I’m already looking into grad school. I have a thirteen year old son who occasionally remembers I exist long enough to want to spend time with me. I have a husband who is also super-busy with his career and education who I like to talk to sometimes. I have four cats and three dogs and house that seems to be ever on the verge of becoming a steaming heap. I volunteer with two committees at work and three organizations outside of it. The truth is, I just don’t have time to be a writer.

My first thought was, what can I cut to make room for being a writer? 

My second thought was, why should I?

The truth is, I love writing. I love crafting stories and exploring characters and new worlds. I do not love the notion of shopping novels. I do not love the idea of building a social platform or marketing or blah blah blah… the other work of being a writer these days. Sending out queries is a tacit agreement, imo, to treat writing as a career, and I already have a career.

When I was a kid, books saved me. Growing up in an environment where ignorance was praised and intelligence laughed at, books taught me how to think, how to respect myself, how to honor my strengths and forgive my weaknesses. I’ve always had this romantic idea that someday I’d publish a novel and someone who read my work would have the kind of experiences I had as a kid, that my fiction would help somebody. Thing is, I’m a nurse. I help people every time I step into my unit at the hospital. Maybe it’s not as romantic, but it’s real and it’s important and I love doing it. I’m not in a place in my life right now where I have the time and energy to devote to a second career, and writing would be that for me.

So I’m not going to be a writer. I’m not going to query my novel right now. I’m not going to keep reading writers blogs and writing advice. I’m probably not going to be hanging around the writer’s chats much anymore, either. Instead, I’ll be doing homework and spending time with my guys and training puppies and petting cats and working as a nurse and… reading! (God I miss reading)… and watching TV and cleaning the kitchen and sewing and most importantly not feeling guilty about any of it because I am failing to persevere and dropping the ball on my second career.

As to the site, it’s staying right where it is for now, and I may or may not pick up my posting.

Posted in family, life, Nursing, Puppies, Site Updates, writing | Tagged , , | 3 Comments