Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Regrets of the Dying

I make every attempt to stay current on nursing news and medical advances; a responsibility of any good nurse I believe. In my reading, I came across a very interesting article titled Top Five Regrets of the Dying. Experienced palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware, after years of caring for the dying and recording her experiences in a blog, compiled a list of her patients' most common regrets when faced with mortality.

#1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
The most common regret of all, according to Ware, the dying were able to reflect on their lives clearly in their final days and realize how many dreams went un-actualized. She states, "It is very important to try and honor at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health bring a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it." Since my back injury, I have come to realize this lesson, albeit in a different capacity than the dying. Each hike I am able to take these days is precious, each car ride without pain is a blessing, and every flight without back spasms is amazing. Health can be an enabler of the lazy. There is always tomorrow for those living a life free of disease and pain to accomplish their dreams. Until tomorrow is stolen.

#2. I wish I didn't work so hard.
We live in a world driven by "stuff." Having more stuff, getting bigger stuff and then buying a bigger house to store all our stuff. In order to obtain these things, we work more. We spend more time away from our families, our friends, and rarely get the chance to see our lives for what they could be because it is blocked by our need for the "stuff." After being on the road for seven months and living with very few possessions, I learned I needed to downsize my life. When I came home, I purged my house of all the things that I was able to survive without for seven months. My theory was if I never needed it in that time frame, I never really needed it at all. Now, I work on call and make every attempt to work as little as possible. Both for my mental health and my physical health. I've learned how to tighten my belt so to speak and simplify my life so I don't have to work so much. Now I have more time to take trips back to New England if I want, spend more time with my friend Dee and watch her girls grow up, or work on expanding other aspects of my life that I never could before because I was working too much.

#3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
I know I am particularly guilty of this one. I've been called a pushover on more than one occasion. Ware states, "We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win." I find myself in these situations, swallowing my words out of fear of hurting feelings or inciting confrontation. But as Ware explains, if they can't handle you simply being honest with them, then it isn't anyone you need in your life.

#4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
I imagine that #2 on this list plays into this one quite a bit. Many of us are perpetually busy. Between work, family obligations, and other responsibilities, we don't make the time for friends. Ware describes that in the final weeks of life, love and relationships, not career accomplishments or financial wherewithal. "Everyone misses their friends when they are dying," Ware writes. I imagine for those with few family, this is particularly true. I have always looked at my close friendships as I would any other relationship; something that must be nourished or it will simply fall apart. When I first met the vast majority of my close friends, I knew right away we were destined to know each other. But a friendship takes investment of time, emotion, and effort just as a romantic relationship does.

#5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
Fear of change and familiarity or comfort scare people away from going after or admitting what will truly make them happy. People will deny to others and themselves that they want anything other than what they have, even if deep down they know the long for something else. Ware states that happiness is a choice. I am a firm believer that we must be an active participant in our happiness. I'm not willing to sit back and hope that life blesses me with all the things I want. I believe that we make the choice to pursue what will make us happy now and be blessed with unexpected "bonuses" along the way. I knew that deciding to start travel nursing would make me happy and fulfill that nagging feeling I had that this was what I was supposed to do. And it did make me happy, ridiculously happy. The choice wasn't easy and everyday leading up to my departure from home, I was scared shitless that I was leaving the comfort of my life for the unknown. The "bonuses" I received by making the decision to be happy was the friendships I found and the amazing experiences I had.

While each of these regrets has their own implications in our daily lives they have a common thread: choices. Life is filled with choices, we make them everyday. We can choose to put work before friends and family and we can choose to speak our minds or squelch what we really think. But having happiness, joy, and the feeling of peace in life is also a choice. Take what you will from this list. Live a life free of regret. Live the life you want. No one is going to do it for you.

To read the full article about Ware, click here.

Monday, March 4, 2013

New England: many is it now? 4? 5?

When people learn I am from Wisconsin, they usually make a comment about the nasty winter weather. Who would want to live in that? How much snow do you get? How cold does it get? My answer to the last question usually involves a description of how your nose hairs will freeze off with the first breath outside on a really cold day.
On my last trip to New England, I traded one winter for another. Only a few days after a large snow storm had hit, they had their fair share of snow and cold temperatures. As a result of the cold weather and less than amicable hiking conditions, the majority of my trip involved dinners with friends, movies while lounging on the couch and very little time outside with my camera. I did manage to snap a few shots of my time in Boston with Annie and Val, the New Hampshire countryside covered in snow, breakfast with Jen, and some infamous coconut cream pie (reference back to my trip with Helga last year).

The Old North Church in Boston's north end. Built in 1723, it is the oldest standing church in Boston. A large part of its history is wrapped up in the beginning of the American Revolution. On April 18th, 1775, Robert Newman climbed the church steeple with two lanterns in hand to signal Paul Revere that the British were invading Lexington and Concord by sea and not by land. One if by land, two if by sea. To read more about the history of this beautiful Boston landmark, click here.

Mike's Pastry for cannolis and Regina's for pizza, a new Boston tradition with Val and Annie.

Breakfast with Jenn at one of my favorite places in Portsmouth, The Friendly Toast.
The infamous coconut cream pie that Sarah and I had sampled almost exactly a year ago. Val and I drove nearly an hour into Maine to obtain this slice of heaven. It was as good as I remembered it. Like Val said, should have gotten two slices!