Tag Archives: #1000Speak

Nurturing through hospice

Nurturing through hospice

It’s the #1000Speak topic of nurturing. Well I am a bit of a paranoid nerd so let me make sure I understand the definition first. So I did what any red blooded human would do and googled nurture and this is what came up –

verb: nurture; 3rd person present: nurtures; past tense: nurtured; past participle: nurtured; gerund or present participle: nurturing
  1. 1.
    care for and encourage the growth or development of.

Well I was prepared for the care portion of the definition but encourage the growth or development of was more of a stumbling point for me. I know how to care for myself and others but encouraging growth or development takes it to a whole other level and frankly it is not something I learned in my family of origin. Growing up we were always in survival mode….just getting by to pay the rent and have the necessities there was not a lot of emphasis on personal growth. This is something I had to discover outside of my first little tribe.

What is interesting to me is that the actions required to nurture a person are so individual. For instance, my son can be nurtured with a gigantic bowl of pasta while my daughter will prefer an in depth conversation regarding recess who played 4-square, who didn’t, why they didn’t, do they like me…..and round and round we go. My husband, my children, my mother, my brother, my friends we all have different needs so the manner in which I nurture them varies by person and circumstance.

One thing that has been tricky about motherhood is finding ways to nurture myself. The obvious ones – eat right, get enough sleep, exercise, take time for yourself, shower regularly…..seem like monumental tasks when you are raising tiny humans. The early years are rough and that time just gets stretched more with each additional child. I made it through babyhood, preschool and the early elementary years and most nights if I can’t sleep it’s due to my own diabolical hormones and not night terrors. So my self nurturing takes me to the gym, out to lunch and helping others.

Yes for me nurturing others (outside the family) also nurtures my soul. It is natural to care for close family and friends but stepping outside that circle is also rewarding. For the past 8 years I have been a hospice volunteer. When I tell people that they either cringe or smile, few people are lukewarm about hospice. The ones that cringe tend to have a fear of death for themselves or someone close to them. The people that smile have usually been an eyewitness to hospice work, it is beautiful.

For those that aren’t familiar hospice is an approach to terminal care. It is the point where the patient decides that they want a different course of treatment. Instead of curative care they seek more palliative care basically comfort measures. My role in this varies by situation. I volunteer to provide respite for the caregiver. I stay with the dying person so their primary caregiver can take a few hours to do whatever they need to do. I’ve had dozens of patients in the past 8 years and while they share some similarities each one of them needed to be cared for in a unique manner. Sometimes I will read to the patient other times we will discuss current events or swap travel stories. Sometimes I make meals or tidy up the house it really depends on what is needed.

It’s an odd niche to get into and people always ask “why”? Of course I had personal introduction….I don’t think many people read a textbook and think….hmmm….I want to give that hospice thing a whirl. No most people that work or volunteer for hospice have a personal story. For me it was my aunt who was a chaplain and died from metastatic breast cancer at the age of 59. Her faith and ability to face death with a practical and loving heart gave me my first adult glimpse at the dying process. I was 29 when she died and was on the corporate fast track. It took another 10 years and many major life events to get me on the path to being a hospice volunteer. The seed was planted though and I am fortunate that I have been able to devote some time to something so important.

So what is the allure of hospice? To me I find it similar to when a new baby comes home. There is usually a lot of activity and well meaning visits, some family tension but mostly people tend to get their priorities in order. Suddenly the size of Kim Kardashian’s back side becomes unimportant and people can focus on what really matters in life – love, kindness, forgiveness, letting go, faith and hope. Now this isn’t a universal process but the end result is pretty consistent.

Perhaps that is another pull toward hospice. Maybe I just want to learn more about this universal truth that we all must face one day regardless of race, religion or whatever color socks you happen to be wearing…..we are all going to die. I find it interesting that while this is something we all know on an intellectual basis not many are willing to look it squarely in the eye. My hospice work is my way to acknowledge death and perhaps make some friends that can guide me when I get to the other side. And the stories……the stories they tell me are great and I am privileged to listen to them.

Yeah I was bullied too…..

Yeah I was bullied too…..

Wow this is a bit of a tinder box of a topic, bullies, bullying and all the bull shit that goes with it.  Total disclosure, I was bullied probably not extreme by today’s standards but consistent in nature from age 8 to 14. And while I don’t think I bullied anyone in particular, I did enjoy the brief respite when someone else took a turn at being the scape goat.  And if I am being completely honest I was a bit of a dick to my brother…bullying, sibling rivalry…..tomato, tomahto. He was a jerk too so there was some balance.

I got bullied for the typical reasons, I wasn’t very pretty, didn’t dress well (we were broke so I rocked the hand me downs) and bonus I was usually the new girl. One unfortunate day in 4th grade a milk bone dog biscuit was found in my desk.  It landed there because I used to give treats to a dog that I would see on the way home.  Let’s just say my dog loving ways were not admired and I was known as a “dog” from that day on.  This was before the “What’s up dawg” phrase became popular….this was the 70s when “dog” was synonymous with ugly.  The good thing about moving so much is that we didn’t stay past a year so I was ready to take on the next new class the following Fall.

I started 5th grade in a new town and nearly got my ass kicked from the start.  I don’t recall the particulars of how I managed to piss off nearly every kid in the class but somehow I did. Things got heated to the level where someone said they were going to beat me up and then another kid chimed in and another…..and so on. I don’t know how many kids were lined up to beat me up but at some point I yelled “Fine – you’re first, you’re second, you’re third……” and I started assigning an order to the kids I would fight.  Honestly it was a ballsy move and I’m not sure where it came from…I was probably up to the 5th kid when one of the most popular jock girls came to my rescue.  She yelled out “if you fight her, you fight me” and every single one of them backed down.  I never fought those particular kids and I gained a best friend that day. Heart of gold that girl, then and now.

My scrappy ways continued for a few more years.  Eventually the ugly duckling became a good looking swan and viola the teasing stopped.  Can I tell you it still bugs me that people are so fucking shallow.  Seriously nothing changed except I magically got pretty one summer and then people were nice, wtf??? Then the real problems started…..suddenly pretty mixed with years of a beaten down self esteem and a shaky family life tilted me toward disaster but that is a story for another day, focus…

So back to bullying….growing up in the 70s bullying was expected and accepted.  If someone called you a name you upped the ante with a more derogatory name (even if you didn’t know what it meant).  True story in fourth grade (the year of the dog) I was over heard telling some boy to “go suck momma moose cock”……clearly anatomically impossible but I heard it from somewhere so I parroted it out there when someone insulted me. The worst part was I was living with my grandparents at the time and I had to write down what I said and have my Nanna sign the paper (palm slap, hard). I’m cringing now with the recall. And if you physically pushed me, it was on. The fact that I weighted at least 20 pounds less than any opponent did not phase me….I would go spider monkey crazy on their ass. If I grew up with today’s rules I would have been kicked out of no less than four of the dozen or so schools I attended. SMH

There were some pluses to the bullying and I am reluctant to even mention this because again, tinder box.  Truth is I gained some valuable life skills dealing with bullies. I learned how to defend myself verbally and physically. It taught me how to read people and situations and come up with a strategies for dealing with undesirables. I learned who my real friends were and who were posers. Truth is it wasn’t all bad. Falls into the category of what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  I know it doesn’t work like that for everyone and I am grateful that I could bend without breaking.

I do think bullying is different today than it was in the 70s.  On one hand nearly everything is considered bullying today. Mom Johnny said my shirt is ugly.…this is not bullying in my mind. This is Johnny having an opinion about a shirt which may or may not be ugly and Johnny may or may not be a jerk. This makes me insane. The pendulum may have swung a teensy bit too far. I get it, start young pays off later. Sometimes it seems like we are putting out a small fire with a tidal wave. Until middle school or whenever they get on Instagram, then shit gets real.

The social media pits of hell were not an issue for me.  I could suck it up for the six or seven hours I would be at school and then go home and refuel for the next day’s onslaught.  I was oblivious to the smack being talked about me on various tangled corded phones throughout the school district. Kids today don’t have that reprieve. They can be bombarded with shit 24/7 and that is too much. Honestly I wish I had a magic wand for this one, I don’t.  My kids are on the brink of middle school and I am afraid for them.  I have no idea what they will face but I really hope they come to me. I happen to have some skills – thanks bullies – and I think I can help them.