Category Archives: Living Authentically

Living true, big, large, proud, bold, strong and brave. I am learning step by baby step how to do this…THIS YEAR!
Learn with me and we will grow together. There will be no limits to what we can achieve.

The Future of Caring

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How we care for ourselves in our practice
reflects upon how we care for our patients.

 

In the field of healthcare I have always been transfixed with our process of learning in clinical patient care settings. Fresh out of school, hands on, here you go! You are on your own! A fresh caregiver thrown to the wolves and we know there will be two possible outcomes. They will quickly learn how to use their resources, reflect on mistakes, debrief with co-workers to adapt and succeed just enough to propel them forward. Or, they will make mistakes that are incredibly stressful and discouraging, flounder in their ability to redirect critical thinking concepts, feel incredible responsibility for their actions and shut-down emotionally due to shame and fear. Fly or fall. Trial by fire. The attempted creation of one who must care often performed by those who do not have enough experience to support them or have lost connection with our current system.

Stress can create the opportunity for an incredible mirror, but here’s the key part…we cannot learn about that which we have accommodated to. There is no perspective for reflection. There is no outside opinion to create dialogue. There is no vision for improvement, only a drive to continue on as we are, surviving. We do the work and walk away at the end of the day. Defend ourselves with a wall between our patients and us in order to cover our fears. When we are in the thick of the work of daily life, we do not allow time to review each moment in our practice to learn about ourselves, how we relate and how we can grow.

Current caring culture often potentiates failure, exhaustion and attrition. We are slammed from the moment we show up. Pulled into documentation and process and policy, we strain to ensure our patients feel cared for. Attempts to make healthcare safe and consistent while reducing liability must be balanced with the art of caring both physically and emotionally for our patients. All the while we must be looking ahead in time, critically examining the possible outcomes of our actions. A healthcare system in which care is provided reactively finds parallel in the way its workforce is trained. Prevention needs to override as the dominant message in our field. Prevention of disease and prevention of mental illness for those we care for but also prevention of trauma, despair and loss of our workforce among those who are doing the caring.

If you are lucky, as a new clinical practitioner you may be given a mentor, with whom you may strike a relationship that feels safe to discuss your work. This allows decompression, emotional release and growth in practice. However, few are are afforded this luxury. If you have excellent leadership, you have frequent opportunity to practice and reflect,  continuously debriefing, evolving your practice and establishing new professional goals. We have excellent evidence in health care now to support debriefing after intense or stressful patient care events. The benefits of learning and improvements in care practices are irrefutable. Now, we just have to figure out how to incorporate debriefing discussions into our daily care, consistently and with priority as the practice requires global commitment throughout an organization.

As we care for ourselves as ‘grown’ or established practitioners, we will model behaviours of holistic healthcare throughout public healthcare systems for practitioners in training, for fresh graduates and for our patients. We must walk the walk: performing, examining, discussing, relating, planning and repeating. Healthy cycles of health care that are connected and creative in order to provide solutions to ever changing human populations, their needs and their goals. Fly or fall is no longer sustainable when the majority are falling. Our success will rely on those who bravely come forward to support, empower and continuously reflect on their own progress as leaders and teachers; Those that understand that how we care for our caring workforce is paramount to the future of caring.

-CB

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All grown up…?

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Harness more life energy: Boost your EQ!  Photo: www.ppswest.com/blog/

Harness more life energy: Boost your EQ!
Photo: http://www.ppswest.com/blog/

Just wanted to share this great article recently posted by another website.

Emotional Intelligence has profoundly shifted to the forefront of my awareness over the past decade and this article gives a great recap of what ‘EQ’ entails (i.e. what we are striving for).

The real work lies in getting from where you are now ‘in your head’ to where you want to be. Unleashing more EQ. Prepare for emotional blood, sweat and tears because this is the real work of life. Shifting through the thoughts in your head and your reactions to people and events to trace back to the base human emotions that were evoked. What do you fear the most? What causes you shame? Where do you search for love and acceptance? Emotional intelligence effects your search for love, your joy in life and your everyday behaviour. It allows you to have empathy and truly connect to other people.

Realizing your potential, your joy and passions as well as the same features in everyone around you are some of the rewards of an improved emotional intelligence! Don’t wait. This is some of the most important work you will ever do.

No ‘Eggs-cuses’ anymore.

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Free_Range_Chickens

Living it up…chicken style! Which means fresh air, green grass and the strength to stand.

A co-worker of mine brings farm fresh eggs into work on a weekly basis. He sells them for an amazing price at $3.50 a dozen. Last week someone popped their head into the department and whispered loudly, “Have you got any eggs?”. “Why are we whispering?” I retorted. Oddly enough, I have noticed that it is quite common for people to side-step over to me at work and speak out of the corner of their mouths whilst asking if our fridge has any eggs in it presently. I didn’t really acknowledge the odd behaviour until this week.

Is this some sort of clandestine egg exchange? A black-market grocery op? Should I be trying to manipulate who gets the goods and who doesn’t in exchange for preferential treatment if I ever require an MRI or gastroscopy? (I work at a hospital). Maybe I’m just witnessing the people ‘in-the-know’ trying to keep the amazing deal on farm-fresh, free-range, organic, grass-fed eggies on the down-low? I think the chance to get local, healthy food options is rare and thus, maybe SHOULD be treated as an opportunity.

So it got me thinking about food and how my family eats. Then, as in all things, what you think about – you bring about. So I found myself finding and watching a few documentaries on Netflix about what we shove in our mouths daily in North America. I found information about cows steeped in feces with stomachs full of a strain of super E.coli. I found myself watching chickens that could not walk more than 3-4 steps without collapsing because their bones could not support their massive growth from genetic manipulation and forced growth. I found out that a chemical company that developed Agent Orange, now controls over 90% of soybean production in North America by using fear and  patent legislation. I found out that the ideal diet for optimal health and weight loss is one that encourages massive amounts of fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes with meat only twice a week max and rarely ever milk or milk products.

So, I am horrified. More due to the fact that I thought we were already eating healthy and making decent choices. I choose to eat organic and always avoid the ‘dirty dozen’ fruits and veggies. I occasionally buy organic meats as a treat. I am celiac and thus already making invested, learned choices about what goes in my shopping cart. I am mostly horrified by the thought of undoing the damage to my children as they have grown to accept their diet of boxed cereals (Whole Grain!), noodles with fake cheese (Organic with Real Cheese!) and sugar-laden granola bars (High Fiber -Low Fat!). I see now, more than I ever have, that food marketing is a joke, with no entitlement to honesty felt by any major food company.

So, as a consumer, what choice do I have? How can I impact the industry? Where do I go from here other than crawling under my fluffy duvet and crying out “I give up! What the hell are we supposed to eat?” You can bet your juicy July BBQ steak that I am not going back to the person I was before viewing these atrocities against animal and man on film.

So I decided to take control of my own eating habits. I will make slow changes for my family, but for myself, I am going for it.  Here is my plan:

  • First: Hit the market – local if possible – for some Organic fruits and veggies. Feeling as though I would need the fiber, I chose not to juice but to purchase a Nutribullet instead. I started blending up some chlorophyll-filled goodness on Monday. Kale, strawberry, flax, apple, carrot, walnuts, pineapple, cucumber, lemon and almonds have never tasted so good. I blended 3-4 times per day. I ate no meat, only beans and legumes. By Wednesday I had amazing amounts of energy and I no longer craved coffee, bread, sweets or milk. In fact, all of these things that I usually love to indulge in because they give me comfort almost made me nauseous to look at. By Sunday, I had lost 4 lbs.
  • Second: Yoga, yoga, yoga – Perhaps this is the true source of all my healthy thinking and awareness lately. 3 weeks ago I started practicing yoga 3-5 nights per week. I am stronger, more calm and I feel more in control of my body than when I began. Look out crow pose – I got you! The physical benefits are awesome but there is no denying the mindfulness that yoga brings. I remember one instructor asking us to recognize the differences in how our bodies felt, left side vs. right side. Acknowledging, but not judging. Experiencing, but not shaming. Wonderful life lessons.
  • Third: Protect my family – I am lucky enough to have a lot of options here in the suburbs around Vancouver. I can access organic, grass-fed meats online for my carnivorous husband to enjoy, allowing my family to benefit from my knowledge but not forcing them to change. (All in good time). I can drive 5 minutes and visit a family owned farm selling vegetables that grew up from the ground looking very normal and imperfect. My kids don’t like the texture of my revved-up ‘smoothies’ and so I will have to consider starting them off with juicing. This will be a financial investment..but we are always better off paying now for what we put into our bodies instead of paying with our health later (trust me on this one).
  • Fourth: Never forget – The strain on our food system has created where we are today. Chemically treated meat, genetically modified food, and fast-food that is killing us on every corner. How do we walk away from all the convenience? Easily done when we look at how sick people have become. Type 2 diabetes is rampant, cancer is always right next-door, auto-immune diseases are common (so-says the  Celiac) and we are all desperate for more! More energy, more distractions, more everything!!! I propose less. Less toxins, less rush, less waste, less apathy.
  • Lastly: Get growing – Last year I managed to grow some yummy lettuce and carrots in a planter in my backyard. We live in a townhouse, so I will need to be more creative this year.  I hope to conquer vertical gardening this year and start taking control of my food supply, even if only for small additions to each meal. It’s a start that I need my children to see.

So, feel free to observe my journey. Feel free to make one of your own. Maybe you start with a quick decision to pull over at the beat-up sign at the end of the long driveway and buy those farm-fresh eggs. Maybe you go full-out and buy a $500 juicer! To each his own… but always remember that we are all, very much, in this together.

CB

Documentaries that forced my changes:

Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead

Hungry for Change

Food, Inc.

 

Portrait of Lotte

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A time-lapsed video of one man’s daughter from birth to Age 14 – all in only 4 minutes. As parents, we don’t need a reminder that changes in our children happen fast. Very often, far too fast. I thought this was a beautiful video and its existence is a testament to one father’s great love for his child. The importance and relevance of her development and evolution shines through. Well done!

Paying it Back, in Kind

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I am having a bad day. You know, the kind where you wake up annoyed and just can’t seem to snap out of it? Today, I feel like the weight above me is just heavy enough to override the wind beneath me. In other words, I feel down. What’s got me in this funk? Who really knows, but at my best guess, I think I have taken too much on again. I feel like my ‘to-do’ lists are growing wings, levitating off the kitchen island and taking flight for the sole purpose of flapping around my head all day. Like a murder of crows after a chunk of fine flesh, these lists will consume me piece by piece. My mind is always with them, ever-buzzing, never at peace. Today, these lists make me sad. Sad that I cannot seem to muster up enough empathy for myself to just let them die a quiet, pulpy death. If I could only grant myself as much kindness as I could any friend or acquaintance in a tough spot, each day would be that much more free.

Think about the last time you sat with a friend who was hurting or upset. Did you lower your voice? Speak softly to be sure they were really hearing you? Did you use empathy and really try to understand their situation so that you could give an honest outlook? Were you caring and sympathetic? So what if we could use this same kind and consoling manner with ourselves? What if today, I just took 10 minutes to create some compassion for myself, acknowledging my daily struggles and recognizing that I have some choices to make. As any good friend would, I can note that I am doing the very best that I can. I could suggest that I am being a little too hard on myself and expecting too much. Perhaps, expecting more than anyone else ever would.

Self-compassion and empathy would likely allow me to again remember that I am enough. To acknowledge my worth and my value – without all the unnecessary trimmings. I could speak softly and gently, kindly guiding the way. Then, I could let the lists rest like paper should, in a pile, waiting its turn to be dealt with. There are more important things to be done. Like tickling my children to entice their laughter, holding my husband’s hand just to feel his warmth, and twirling around the kitchen to my favorite song. All things guaranteed to lift me up above this hazy fog to clear skies and brighter days.

CB

Art Understanding

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Be brave and show your colors! Source:Ticktacktoeleb.com

Be brave and show your colors!
Source:Ticktacktoeleb.com

I started my second painting class last weekend. I have newly discovered the joy and release of painting using acrylic on canvas. Placing myself with paintbrush in hand in a completely new environment at the age of 36 has been so refreshing. It’s a new way to open up creatively, throw myself off balance and choose to become vulnerable thus learning more about myself in the process. Surprisingly, it has revealed a little more about my parenting style. Painting has shown me that one of the hardest things to achieve as a parent is to let your children experience the world in their own way without introducing any of our own biases or opinions. My work is my interpretation of the world. It can be judged but the critque will not change the facts and emotions behind my experiences. My children deserve the same from me. I should allow them the experience, encourage full artistic licence and make no apologies for what they create.

My class has about 6 participants of all ages and most of us are beginners. This means we are still finding our creative voice and feeling out of place. Still lacking confidence and quick to judge our own work, it is common to hear across the room at any point, “Ooops, I think I did it wrong!”. This statement made me think about how my children approach art. When my son was 2 or 3, he showed his own interpretation of the world in his visual art with no apologies made for colors, shapes or sizes used on his impressions. But once he began to join social groups and hear critiques of his work, he would also begin to judge his artwork. That head on the dinosaur is a bit small or the lake is not the right blue. Outside opinion became influential, so I became aware of my own judgements in this manner. I have to remind myself that art is interpretation and shows glimpses of how we see the world. There is no right or wrong. Expect variety and difference.

Being the recovering perfectionist that I am (see blog post here for details) , I had previously had moments of conflict while helping my children draw or color. I used to look over my children’s works of art and feel a compulsion to add or direct color use. I would even embellish pictures after they completed them! You may have experienced similar compulsions or you may think I am a complete control freak. Either way, we can learn from this ridiculous tendency.

I believe there is great value in teaching our children that their thoughts and impression are valid, regardless of popular opinion. Through art, we can teach that not everyone will agree with what they see and feel, but that does not make their experience any less significant or important. If, as parents, we embrace their works with empathy and share our past experiences of harsh judgement, we can create a strong bond of solidarity and teach shame resilience. We can teach strength, compassion and kindness.

So when someone in my painting class announces they have screwed up….I  like to grab these moments to shout out…. “Not wrong! Just different!”. We usually have a giggle, but it lessens the judgement. It opens up our ability to use different blends of color, paint a sky with a few extra clouds, or sketch a skyline with a few extra peaks. Creative freedom found in a world where we feel constrained and must ‘fit in’. This support of being different helps us to feel conviction in our work and confidence as we press on. Such feelings I would be thrilled to pass on to my own children.

CB

“Goodbye Miss Universe”

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Small prizes for self-destruction. Source: http://capriciousd.hubpages.com/hub/7-Things-I-Wish-I-Understood-Sooner

Small prizes for self-destruction.
Source: Superstock.com

This past month I have thrown myself back into a previous work environment. I am back to work at a children’s hospital in the critical care programs. I have not worked there for over 4 years and the break has done me well, but I returned to keep up my neonatal and pediatric skills. While re-orientating in the unit with an old friend he mentioned in passing ” …I know that you are a bit of a perfectionist, but since you will only be working casually here, you will have to ask for help occasionally.”.  His next words became fuzzy as I processed that statement. Wow, he was right. I was a perfectionist. When he had worked with me I was endlessly fighting to prove myself every day and be flawless. No mistakes could be made. Good enough was just not in my vocabulary. I have, thank goodness, begun to evolve and grow in many ways this past year. I used to be a devout perfectionist, but now I am doing the work of recovering from this affliction and have great hope for myself in the future!

The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself. – Anna Quindlen

I can almost hear some of you contesting in the background. Shrugging shoulders and scoffing in disagreement. You are asking yourselves what is so very WRONG with perfectionism. Doesn’t it make you better? Motivate you? Keep you ahead of the pack at work? Some of this may be true, but what will happen if you make a mistake? If you are caught being imperfect, you will get an awful feeling in the pit of your stomach. Dread and fear. You will feel a flush of heat up your neck and into your face. Shame and embarrassment. These are not pleasant feelings. You will then vow to be even more perfect, placing your nose to the proverbial grindstone and working even harder at your perfectionism. Running from shame and judgement, forever and always.

 perfectionism

Such weight of responsibility we feel from our perfect hair to our excellent, trendy choice in shoes! To look and act and live perfect lives is exhausting but you will only recognize this if you can step away. Like a long commute in for work every day of the week, you will only know the relief of the strain of perfectionism once you have stopped the daily habit. What if you could take this weight off your shoulders? What would that feel like? I know you’ve often wondered. When paired with the weight of the iron mask of my own projected self image, my attempts at perfectionism were like chains, anchoring me to a treadmill that never stopped moving. I could not step off, because if I did, I thought myself lazy, and not worthy of any positive thoughts or love. I would be judged, feel shame and there would be fear. The fear of the loss of attention for my huge efforts. I could not risk it. The consequences would be too great.

There must be some escape from this cycle of self-destruction. I can tell you that there is and I hope to show you a way. I view myself as having thrown off all but one or two small lengths of chain with both feet planted on the stationary sides of the treadmill. I hover above it, loathing the endlessly rotating belt. It stares me right in the face and I make no effort to look away. I shout out “I know you are there, and I WILL be rid of you soon.” But there is still much work to be done.

There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. – Leonard Cohen: Anthem

A huge step in my personal journey evolved when I discovered mindfulness. Becoming aware of your emotions and not over-identifying with them as defining who you are is very challenging and the concept needs to be adequately explained. Dr. Dan Siegel’s work on the Mindsight project is pivotal  in helping us navigate our identity : self, separate from emotion. Not ‘I am sad’ but ‘I feel sad’. Wading through a minefield of possible highs and lows every day and letting it flow. You, as a person and powerful being, afloat and in control of how much emotion you experience. The concept is life changing.

I have my children to thank for this personal evolution because becoming a new parent is one of the scariest, most vulnerable positions to ever find yourself in. Their entry into my life kick-started some amazing changes. No control, no study guide, no possible chance of perfection. I was wrong on many occasions, I needed to adapt and learn but I had no answers readily at hand. I can now very easily admit to my children that ‘Mommy should have done it differently’ and that I too, was learning.

I have historically been very hard on myself. I was never allowed mistakes and I still marvel to this day at people that can take a correction with no offense. Could I ever be that kind to myself? Could I ever love myself enough to say ‘It’s ok Christy, even with your flaws, you are good.’ ?

A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life. – Christopher K Germer

Great change and self development is always work, but it is my life’s work and it has become a new passion. I see now that perfectionism,  quite frankly, is boring and a dead end. Seeking a better motivator than temporary nods of approval, I am choosing a life free of chains, full of mistakes and laughter over my imperfection. Seeking a commonality with others on their own journey, I am learning to open up and share my ‘woops’ moments. Laughter and connection are becoming a new driving force. I am not alone anymore.

CB

Note: A good portion of my inspiration for this blog-post came from Brene Brown’s book – The Gifts of Imperfection. Reading her work can be transformational if the timing is right. Watch her first TEDx talk here.

…and I go to sleep counting my blessings.

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▶ White Christmas Count your Blessings – YouTube.

As I lay me down to sleep, I peep cautiously out of one eye to see if my son has his eyes closed yet. He used to be infamous for his poor sleep, but he is 5 and a half now. All grown up and a great sleeper. He has placed himself so that his head is on the same pillow as mine and his nose is only 2 inches away, his breath warm on my chin. His eyes are closed but I know his breathing patterns and he is not asleep yet, or at least not deep enough for me to sneak away.

I have time to let my mind wander and so it will. I think about this week of holidays, family time and celebration. I have nothing to complain about. I have no wants. No needs. My biggest problem this week is embarrassing at best: deciding whether to switch from an iphone to a Samsung. Seriously pathetic.

So I let my mind wander to gratitude, where I know I can always come away feeling refreshed and light. To reach out and embrace my children. To have them want to cuddle and play with me. To have a husband who is engaged, honest, and fun to be with. To have a home that is warm and safe. To go to work and use my skills to help others. These are my Christmas gifts. This is my joy. I allow the soft hush of this realization to resonate and bring a peace to my mind.

Christmas as we know it today has become a reminder of what I do not need. I give thanks for all the marketing and lights and bells and whistles as they blare out a message: “If you are not enough, then we can provide. We have everything you need!” And I laugh at the ridiculousness of the idea. Didn’t we grow up watching the Grinch learn this very lesson every single year, trying to stuff joy and love into bags and steal it? So then, even if we know it in our hearts to be true, we may not be ready to become it. To live it. To allow the message to seep in, take root and grow, changing us permanently as it thrives.

I remember the smile on the Grinch and his heart swelling in anticipation. I lay there and count my blessings as I count my son’s tiny breaths. One by one, smiling as they come.

CB

Filling the Void

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Today is Black Friday. A day of great deals. Fantastic shopping. A wonderfully cheap way to fill your life full of stuff. Stuff you likely don’t need. Stuff you would almost always be able to survive without. What I would really like to see is a Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale for things that really mattered. 50% off a good hug! Save $30 on 30 minutes of meaningful conversation! B.O.G.O. pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks if you bring in a grandparent! A Half-price sleigh-ride up to visit my father before Christmas. Get today’s Groupon! – The chance to have all my immediately family in the same room for Christmas dinner with no arguments! (okay, that was pushing it). But seriously, this year I don’t want anymore stuff. I want people and talking and visits and joy.

This season has historically been consistent at making me nostalgic and this year is no exception. As I write out names on Christmas cards, I am remembering what has been lost and what has been gained. For the gains I am forever thankful. Yet, important people are missing and their vacancy leaves this void that I dance around every day. Like a dent in the Gyproc of the wall in the hallway. I know it is there. I see it very day and yet I look away to deal with other pressing matters.

So what can I fill this void with? Errands and tasks, work and more work. Stuff and more stuff. If I keep busy enough, any voids will recede and becomes less. But I don’t want to look away anymore. I want to see this year. I want to expose the flaws and examine them in full, blinding light. What needs to be done? What needs to be fixed? How do I make it whole? I believe I must fill this space with people. My people. The positive, bright twinkling lights of my friends and family. I know this is the truth but yet somehow I tend to get lost in the fray of everyday living. What are my excuses? I’ll show you mine if you show me yours!

Tasks, errands and work. Ah the almighty dollar! We work to make money to survive, right? For some this is absolutely true. Yet for others, work becomes a barrier to actually living the life they long for. Is there ever enough? Do we not just stretch that much further beyond our means once we obtain enough? I have blogged before about searching for years to find someone to share a life with and then spending every day separated from them while we are at work desperately trying to afford this ‘dream’ life together. Then we create little people and we end up scheduling their little lives until again we have lost each other. In a flash, my life is almost over and I can only ask for one thing. More time.

But how do we get time if it can’t be found on eBay or Amazon? Surely it is too difficult to obtain. A chunk of time for a steal of a deal! So let me tell you a secret I have learned about time this year. It can be shifted. A little to the left or a wee nudge to the right is all it takes. Make a window and emblazon it with a gold label bearing such authority that you cannot ignore its importance. ‘LIFE’ ‘TIME’ or ‘LOVE’ ! Take your pick of mine or choose your own, after all it is YOUR life. Shift your meetings and your readings and your shopping and your appointments until you have a void. And then fill that void with something big. Someone awesome. Fill it with memories that will always be with you. Because that big screen TV or that awesome pair of boots won’t be with you forever. Trust me, they are not there with when you go and even if they are, you will no longer care about them.

So I put it to you on this day ear-marked for great shopping. Write down your list before you get started. What do you really want this year for you? What do you need down to the core of your soul to survive? Who is missing that you can find? Take a few minutes and decide how you will fill the void. Happy shopping!

CB