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Not a minute more

Well…it’s been quite a hiatus. I kept putting off this post because I truly didn’t have a clue where to begin. About 8 months ago, a virus swept the world and we entered into a period of time that evokes a lot of not-so-nice words to describe it. Everyone’s favorite I’m sure: unprecedented.

COVID-19, a virus that primarily attacks the respiratory system, became a pandemic that we will soon not forget. Countries went dark. Ways of living changed. Normalcy was uprooted. Now, months and months later, everything looks different. I think it always will.

2020, “the year of vision.” I remember toasting to that in a room full of friends. I think we, as an entire globe, shared in this sentiment. I wrote down hopes such as traveling, seeking out new career opportunities, and building on relationships. At first, in the early stages of the pandemic, I had lost that vision. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one that deemed this year a lost cause. Hello, that’s to be expected when the world you once knew and the life you had with all of its potential, is abruptly put on hold. But, read on and see how I got out of this rut.

I am a nurse, if that wasn’t already made clear, and I work on a respiratory unit. Can you guess what my life looked like for about 6 months? Chaotic. Stressful. Heavy. Fear-filled. Sad. Lonely. Exhausting. The list goes on. I’m not going to sit here and throw myself a pity party, but if it’s alright, I want to be authentic and not sugar-coat what life looked like as a healthcare worker.

My entire unit became a COVID floor overnight. I saw death happen at a rate that leaves you feeling hopeless, especially when you’re the one doing CPR and it’s just not working. We had PPE shortages and I would have to save my N95 mask to be worn for multiple days. I couldn’t see my friends or family because if anyone was exposed, it was surely me. I was even asked to find another place to live by a former roommate because she felt unsafe.

I saw coworkers get taken out by this virus. Thankfully, they have all recovered and are back working. My own family member contracted the virus, and there were a few early morning phone calls with doctors asking me if I wanted them to perform all life-saving measures because things seemed to be heading south. By the grace of God, my grandmother survived and is thriving, asking for McDonald’s “Filet-O-Fish” sandwiches every other day (listen, we all have our cravings, okay?).

At the time the transitions were happening and we were preparing for the worst at the hospital, I had this deep fear come over me. I wasn’t ready to face this reality. I had recent travel plans fall through because of the lockdowns, and with weeks of vacation time to use, I fled New York. I was trying to outrun a train that had no plans of stopping anytime soon. I went to stay with a friend in Florida, just before things escalated there too.

Florida was great. Sunny, peaceful, quiet and there was minimal talk of what was happening everywhere else. I felt like I could breathe for a moment. Sipping margaritas on the beach (not really), getting too tan; life was fine. Sure, the fear was looming over me like an overcast day, but I avoided it like the plague.

Every morning, I would wake up early and go run along the water’s edge. I’d finish just in time to watch the sun as it began to peer over the horizon. Peace…it was so tangible in those moments. The world seemed to stop and I could just be. During these quiet moments alone, I found myself slowly but surely unpacking my thought-life. Because I’d experienced this peace, I found I was able to move forward with more ease and wisdom.

I was so thankful for those tranquil moments. Although it didn’t change the storms that awaited me, it gave me a fresh perspective. A perspective that reminds me that peace is possible in the middle of a storm. Peace can be harnessed in such a way that it diminishes the worries of the world to a size that is no longer insurmountable. That didn’t mean hardships would cease, but I now saw that we, as a society, had a fighting chance to not lose ourselves; to not be overcome by it all.

I realized soon thereafter, that running from trouble isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes, it’s the smartest thing to do. Wouldn’t you agree? If you see a bear, you’re not going to just hang out and see how you’d fare against it? No! You’re probably going to run your fastest mile and get out of there. Here’s my point: had I not removed myself from the fear-provoking situation, I might not have seen past my own emotions and perspectives. To gain perspective, you’ve got to change your current one. I don’t think you need fly to another place to feel better about what is overwhelming you (I’m dramatic, what can I say?), but you need to create separation. Get out of the hot seat.

No matter what we endure, we have options. We have the power to look at our current circumstances and say, “You know what? This is overwhelming me, and I need to step back for a moment, be it physically, mentally, or emotionally so that my perspective changes; so the range of my vision enlarges and I can see things for what they truly are.” You might find what you’ve been stressing about is actually quite manageable. What a concept, eh?

For me, my fears ended up being minimal in the grand scheme of things, once I came out from under the microscope. They were no longer so big that I was crippled from ever having peace. No, what I found is that the two can exist. Peace IS in the middle of a storm. Joy IS in the middle of sorrow. Rest IS in the middle of uncertainty. Love IS in the middle of tension. It’s just a matter of how much of the other we allow to take precedence. We must choose to make our joy, faith, peace, etc. bigger than the trial. Remember, this too shall pass.

I cut my vacation short and returned back to NYC to join the fight on the frontlines. No more running. No more avoiding. Instead, I would face it head on, with a fresh outlook and a peace that surpasses all understanding. A peace that is an anchor in the storms, if I let it be.

There’s a quote I’ve seen on Instagram that says, “If you can’t change your circumstances, change your perspective.” That’s exactly what I had to do. Nothing in NYC changed, in fact, they only got worse as COVID-19 swept through the entire world, BUT I have been able to find the light in the darkness and run with reckless abandon towards it. It’s there. There’s so much more available to us than we know.

Think of when you’re looking at a map and you see your location represented as that tiny blue dot (where are my iPhone users at?). When you’re zoomed all the way in, all you see is your location and what is immediately around you. In the context of trials and tribulations, of course you’d see that and freak out! You don’t see another way! Friends…you need to change your perspective. You don’t need to necessarily see past what you are facing, but “zoom out” and see that you’re not confined to one way of thinking or seeing things, but that you actually have space to reroute.

Think on this for a bit. You might be wrestling with a lot of different things at this very moment. That’s okay. Identify them and then create some separation. Get a trusted person’s perspective. Letting people you trust in is such an effective way to walk out life’s messes because now you’re not doing it alone. We need each other to lift us up, to check in, to pray for one another, and to help carry you when you can’t. Whatever you need to do in order to get out of your own head and thinking, do it. See how quickly the mind-shift happens.

Phew, done. If you stuck it out, thank you for bearing with me as I let out months worth of thoughts. As I reflect, I’m so proud of my coworkers and how unified this year has made us. We made it through and I know we are more than ready for whatever is next. To my fellow healthcare workers, friends, family members, whoever reads this…not a minute more. Change that perspective. Your circumstances might not change right away, but YOU will become changed, and that is worth it all. Stay safe, stay hopeful, and make this the year you reclaim your vision.

-RN

6 thoughts on “Not a minute more”

  1. Reading this on my work break and I can’t tell you how much I needed to read these words! Such a refreshing perspective and full of wisdom. Grateful for you, thank you for sharing!

  2. As your former coworker (but secretly you all are still my forever coworkers lol) I felt every emotion in this post. You wrote this beautifully, I admire you writing your thoughts and allowing us in. Those were some horrible months for us all but I am thankful I got to stick it out with you. I am glad to hear you were able to go away and take a breather to refresh before you came back to help us out. I now understand fully why you decided selflessly during your vacation to come in to work. You’re wonderful. Keep writing, you have an amazing gift. I will always have your back! ❤️

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