Sunday, 31 August 2014


Fatigue is a funny thing. Many of us humans like to live organized, compartmentalized lives. “Let’s put work here, relationships there, health over yonder – yes, that’s a good start.” It’s as if we are walking through life in a three-dimensional game of Tetris. We like lines, boxes, and boundaries. The infantile desire to be swaddled has never truly left us. It has simply evolved. What the babe in the blanket knows, however, and what we have forgotten, is that every bit of our existence is interconnected.

Our needs, as dictated by Maslow, are fairly basic. It’s not until one of these things is knocked out of place that we are reminded of the frailty of our existence. The infant knows this well. Full tummy, clean pants, tight blanket, hold me, love me – happiness. The spine is also a perfect analogy for this. One vertebra out of alignment causes an almost disproportionate amount of discomfort to one or more areas of the body.

Which brings me back to fatigue. It is so basic, so fixable. Yet the effect it has on a person’s body, mind and soul is quite dramatic. Have you ever seen a toddler throw itself on the ground in a state of utter despair just because they want to go to bed? Their little toddler world may as well be ending in that moment. Their state of happiness and well-being is very clearly connected to feeling rested. What a brilliant design: that which we try so hard to separate is brought back together by something as simple as being tired. 

When stress and lack of sleep get the best of you, it affects you in a holistic sense. Your optimism dwindles, your confidence wavers, your light dims; you feel incapable. Suddenly those decisions you’ve made, which made so much sense at the time, seem non-sensical. Doubts about your past, present and future flood your mind. Your soul is troubled as the rock you thought you were standing on now feels like sand shifting beneath your feet. 

All these thoughts aren’t the true message. What your body is really telling you is: sleep. Rest your body, rest your mind, rest your soul. In that order, if you can. Acknowledge your fatigue as a reminder of the importance of self-care. Then give yourself permission to nourish those parts of your life that have been neglected. After all, they are all connected.

Monday, 18 August 2014

A moment of weakness

It is interesting how the things that at one time inspired us to pursue what we dream about, can subsequently discourage us on a day of lesser strength. I sought out a used bookstore for inspiration. Although small, “Dog-Eared Books” in San Francisco provided the solace I needed for the frame of mind I was in. Sort of. Used bookstores seem to be the place where my intuition speaks loudest, and I feel free to follow it in any given direction without a real goal in mind. I grasped the spine of the first book that caught my eye. After I had primed the literary portion of my mind with excerpts from “The Bounty Trilogy”, I moved on. A book that a co-worker had been reading snagged my attention. A quick browse taught me that the author has become a best seller, and is on the New York Times list as one of the most promising writers under the age of 40. I looked at her photo on the back flap. She is a beautiful blond from Eastern Europe — and just two years older than me.

The ideal reaction to this knowledge would be one of encouragement. “Well, if she can do it, surely I can, too!” Instead, it was one of jealousy and a sudden feeling of futility. I took a few somber strides and picked up “The Writing Life”, by Annie Dillard. In the first few pages she describes a frustration regarding the writing process that is all too familiar to me. This, too, might have been encouraging on a healthier day, knowing that I am not alone in my struggle with word-smithing. However, my reaction was: I am really not so special after all. My quest to lasso the moon is a path that has been beaten down by many before me. I am left to wonder, “what do I have to offer that has not already been seen, accepted, and then cast aside?” The drop-in-the-ocean feeling that I despise so thoroughly set itself heavily upon my shoulders.

In a slightly cynical spirit of masochism, I bought the book. I intend to read it, pushing through the emotions of the average writer that are apparently ubiquitous, and find the joys that the book is supposedly full of, according to a New York Times book review.

As a friend of mine said recently, “The fire is still burning, let’s see what we can do.” Writing is about love, anyhow. Not about fame and glory, I remind myself. With shaky confidence I put pen to paper and let, as Dillard puts it, my words dig a path for me to follow. You never know, this may yet be the “road less traveled by.”

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Note to Self

It has been a long time. Many weeks, hours, and minutes have passed since I’ve last written anything remotely worthy of public viewing. Not “worthy” in the sense that my writing “deserves” to be viewed. I just think that no one wants to hear me rant about stressful-this and irritating-that’s. God forbid I throw another drop into the sea of ubiquitous whinging that is so prevalent in this Information Age.

That being said, however, I do think that the subject of stress is something that everyone can relate to at some point in their life. To be clear, I haven’t been all that stressed out. Simply juggling all the nuances of readjusting to full-time work, moving into a new place, organizing my world post-traveling, getting reacquainted with “real life” as it were, etc. So, really, as a friend of mine has tattooed on his arms: “I’ve had worse.” Much worse.

That is not a segue into my life story. The past can remain happily where it is — behind me. It is the beautiful present I’d rather talk about.

This is not my usual shpeal. I’ve gabbed on and on about being present and having an attitude of gratitude. Great principles to live by, to be sure. However, as I’m sure all of you have thought already, it is easy to say such things when one is lying in a hammock with a whole lot of NOTHING written on their proverbial calendar. (Because why would one who has no real agenda have a planner?) My point exactly. Stress-free environment to be sure. Yes, there is the whole “where is my next meal coming from” thought that may drift through hammock-inhabiter’s head three times a day. As it turns out, this problem is easily fixed by befriending a generous Italian named something like… Alessandro. Catching the eye of a handsome South African is also not a shabby idea.

But that’s traveling. Then you come home. Home. (Note to self: write soon about the vacuous idea of home.) “Where’s my next meal coming from” as you are lying in a hammock turns into “when’s my next paycheck” as you are responding to the incessant monitor beeps of an unstable neonate on a ventilator. Stress has entered your world, and now you must learn to adapt the care-free spirit of the Italian and the laid-back attitude of the South African to your life as a nurse in America. (Never mind that you’ve fallen in love with the Saffa. That’s a different story). Stress has attached itself to you, and unless you shake it off, it’s moving in. Before you know it, your new roomie will be throwing it’s wet towel on the bed and leaving it’s muddy boots on your ivory carpet.

I could dissect this concept a good deal, but this is the main point: zoom out. What were you doing while traveling? What was your purpose? I believe it was: bring light to every person you meet. Learn. Grow. Discover. Why should this no longer be your purpose? Re-entry into a familiar environment should not dim your light, stop the learning process, or stunt your growth. The list of things to discover is as long as it ever was. You may be crashing exhausted into your bed after a 12 hour night shift without a hammock in sight, but you have a job. A damn good one. One that will pay for your next meal. Not to mention friends and family that love you, and a memory bank full of amazing, life-changing experiences. Yes, things could be worse. Much worse.

So maybe this is my usual shpeal after all. Be grateful. Be present. And don’t forget to breathe.