Room 1: The First Patient I Ever Lost

8765547_cb84ee4533_zI’m no stranger to patient death. If you’re going to be a nurse (or anyone in the medical field for that matter), it’s something you will deal with routinely. This post is in reference to a patient who suffered a critical event while under my direct supervision and did not survive, about five years ago. I was a rookie who had seen death a hundred times under the care of another person, but I’d never personally lost a patient.

Mr. Z was a drunk. He was a frequent flyer. He would use the money he should have been spending on his seizure medications to buy booze. Then he would get wasted, have violent seizures, and his wife would bring him to the ER. He would come up swinging, too, fists throwing out wild haymakers at all of us after the seizures subsided. We’d have to restrain him. Then he’d come to his senses and apologize profusely. This happened once every few weeks.

In my mind, I can still see his wife, always casually strolling through the ER to the waiting room as we began treating him. She’d be carrying a small suitcase and a blanket, preparing for another few nights in the hospital.

On one such occasion, Mr. Z was abnormally lethargic. He didn’t do his usual Mike Tyson routine after his seizure. Dr. Y ordered a CT scan of his head. I approached Room 1 to transport him to the radiology department. He was asleep when I entered. His blood pressure was a little low, but his pulse and respirations were normal.

The radiology tech accompanied me, and we wheeled him down the hall on the stretcher; the whole trip took less than five minutes. I kept track of his heart rate and respirations throughout. He remained stable. We slid him onto the examination table.

And just like that, he stopped breathing. I quickly checked for a pulse. Nothing. We quickly slid him back onto the ER stretcher, where I began CPR. I ordered the CT tech to call back to the ER and prepare for a Code Blue (patient not breathing). She made the call and steered the stretcher back to the ER with me perched on the side, doing compressions the whole way.

My team were at the ready as we wheeled Mr. Z back to Room 1 and went swiftly to work. Despite our best efforts, within fifteen minutes, it became obvious he wasn’t going to make it. Dr. Y announced the time of death. It all had happened so fast. I was dumbfounded.

Dr. Y, a seasoned veteran of medicine, cast a glance across the room and immediately sensed my struggle to process what had just happened. She marched toward me with purpose, grasped me firmly by the shoulders, looked into my eyes, and stated,

“It’s not your fault.”

I looked cluelessly into her eyes.

“It’s not. Your. Fault.” She repeated again.

I wept.

“Tripp. It’s not. Your. Fault.” She was insistent this time, firm.

I nodded. I stepped outside, pulled myself together and finished out the shift. I’ve often pondered why I was so upset, and over the years it has become apparent to me. We treat human beings, without question, without prejudice, without judgment. Whatever your race, your gender, your sexuality, your background, we will treat you.

As an emergency nurse, whenever I feel myself compartmentalizing inefficiently, feeling burned out, exhibiting jaded behavior, getting frustrated, I reflect back on Mr. Z in Room 1, and I am reminded that human beings are human beings. A life is a life. And a life lost before its time is a tragedy. Period.

To my dear fellow nurses this 2017 Nurses Week, you sometimes carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. You are a special breed. You see more disturbing images in a typical week than most people will see in a lifetime. You are loved, you are adored, and you are a vital part of the transformation of this world. Take time to accept the gratitude and appreciation that is declared to you, for you are all rockstars.

Cheers.

Life and Death: A Different Sort Of Birthday

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3408605763_92d0bc3049_b   5th of July, 2015. Before dawn. Most of the east coast is still sleeping.

In my typical fashion, I reach a lazy hand over the bedside table and smack the snooze button for the tenth time, annoyed at the damned ear-piercing alarm for performing the job I assigned to it. I finally muster the strength to drag my carcass out of bed to prep for another 12-hour round of mental taxation as an ER charge nurse.

Silence.

I live with my folks currently, so I take extra care not to disturb anyone as I do my morning routine. It’s a Sunday at that, so I won’t be crossing morning paths with my dad on our respective ways to work. I trudge down the hallway into the kitchen, scarf a few spoonfuls of Apple Jacks, down a glass of water, pop half a 5-Hour Energy (I know, I know; I’m an over-caffeinated work in progress), and quietly shut myself into the bathroom, still half asleep.

I kneel and turn the cold bath faucet on as part of my wakeup routine, to shock myself awake, and to tame my chaotic morning mane. A few seconds before plunging my head under the running water, I could swear I hear the muffled sound of my dad yelling in the next room. Weird. They usually sleep in on Sundays. I turn the water off and listen.

Silence.

We have this geriatric Rat terrier who, whilst in her prime, once tried to check out permanently via school bus tire. After miraculously sustaining zero injuries, the skid marks across her back faded, and she lived many more years. We’ve considered admitting her into a canine nursing home on account of her half dozen life-threatening diagnoses. Dear Lord, I thought, she’s finally hopped the twig to Abraham’s bosom.

I rise to make sure everything is OK. Of a sudden, before my hand reaches the door, it swings violently open, my dad gripping the knob with white knuckles, breathing heavily . . . focused . . . alarmed.

“Hey. Can you come check on your mom?”

My heart skips a beat as the adrenaline permeates. We rush to the bedroom, where I find her lying in bed, cold, listless, pale, sweating . . . and not breathing. I recognize the signs of cardiac failure immediately. I’m struck with a fear.

Stop. Breathe. Keep it together.

I collect my thoughts as my dad dials 911. He begins a series of trips in and out of the house, alternating between flagging down the ambulance and checking on his beloved wife.

“Hey mom! How you doing?” I shout in jovial terror, struggling to maintain my positivity as I put my fingertips to the side of her neck. I feel a very faint, very slow pulse. “Hey Mom!” I shout again.

She suddenly takes a shallow breathe, moans and whispers faintly, “I’m fine. I feel a little sick. Don’t call the ambulance.” Good. At least she’s herself. Even near death, she’s worried about stressing us.

Then she mumbles that she thinks she’s going to pass out. I watch the life slowly depart from her eyes. She stops breathing again. I instinctively look for the patient Code Cart which contains every life-saving medication known to man, shock pads, heart monitor, oxygen, compression board, intravenous setup. But alas, I’m not in the ER. All I have are my hands and my scrambled brain. I refocus and reach to lower her to the floor. I prepare to start compressions on my mom. Just before I lift her, she takes another shallow breath.

“Ugh. I feel just awful. I’ll be fine. Really. You don’t need to call anyone.”

I put a hand to her cheek and look into her heavy eyes. I take a deep breath and control a lingering tear as I pull it back together.

“Mom, I need you to trust me.”

She hesitates. I see irony in her eyes: This wonderful woman, to whom I’ve entrusted my life for so many years, now asked to place her life into my hands.

“OK, Tripp. I trust you.” Her lip quivers as she fights a tear, that dreadfully liberating release of control. Once more the life fades from her eyes. Once more I prepare for compressions. Once more she takes in a breath and comes back. We ride this roller coaster four to five times for what seems like an eternity.

My dad finally rushes in with the EMS crew. Mom seems to be returning to her senses, and is fully conversational by the time they lift her into the back of the ambulance. I step into the truck to tell her I love her and that she’s in good hands. The paramedic, a personal friend, runs a cardiac monitor strip and we both agree on the probable diagnosis.

We slam the back doors, the engine revs and they speed away as the day breaks, lights flashing. I trot back inside to help my dad get some things packed for a hospital stay. Of a sudden, the world stops as an hour of suppressed chaotic emotions surge to the conscious surface. We hug each other briefly, have a small meltdown, pull it back together and finish packing for a few romantic nights of white walls, sterile breezes, incessant beeping and waiting. Lots of waiting.

The cardiologists did stellar work on a heart so big that she probably feels guilty for “burdening her family” as she reads this post, as if she had any control over the electrical impulses of her own heart. There is no burden, only love. And we’re glad mom decided to stick around a while longer. Her recent birthday reignites my utmost gratitude for life.

Take heart my friends. We can live in fear of what we cannot change, or we can live with gratitude for what we would never change. Be bold. Seek to cherish your life and your loved ones, not out of fear of losing them, but out of simple love for every precious moment.

Thank you, mom. I love you dearly.

Image by J E Smith at https://www.flickr.com/photos/statusfrustration/3408605763

 

About A Breakup, Part 3 of 5: The Atom Bomb

Note: Make no mistake. “About A Breakup” is a story of hope and overcoming adversity. In order to experience a breakthrough, you must experience a breakdown first. Don’t get all caught up in the tragedy. Understand that any descriptions of tragic events are written  for the purpose of illustrating the breakthroughs which will follow. Stay with me, friends.

Tyson QuoteI’m standing alone in the small parking lot of a local nature trail. I hear her peel out with a vengeance, that engine madly revving like a speed dragster that can’t get out of first gear, fading slowly until the only sound remaining is the wind moving through the trees. I start the first of a half dozen laps around the entire park.

I had a plan on this day, which turned into an expectation (bad idea). A solid plan with no holes. A plan that did not involve guilt-stricken explanations or crying or screaming tires punishing the black top. Or second thoughts.

A few hours before, we are wandering to the end of the trail, discussing light topics like the kids, and work, before moving on to deeper things, and the biggest shouting match we’d ever had. She apologizes for some of the things she’d said in anger recently. I apologize as well. I am positive she knows where this is going. I’m wrong. 

“I’m tired,” I say. “I’m tired of this tension. I’m tired of arguing. I’m tired of being in purgatory with our relationship.”

I watch as she comes to realize the conversation about to transpire. We’d had breakup conversations many times before, but this one is different. The threat feels imminent. I watch her go into shock and shut down. The details are fuzzy. I recall her telling me to go ahead and cut the cord.

“What’s there to talk about?” she scoffs. “If we’re breaking up, let’s break up.”

I find myself getting furious at the ball being in my court. Again. In retrospect, I see her need for closure, to leave no chance of getting sucked back in, of false hope. I get it. She would later admit that she’d felt the same way for a while, and would apologize for projecting her anger onto me.

“So I guess that’s it then.” She picks up her bag and begins the laborious trudge back to the entrance. I catch up and walk beside her. I feel like a traitor, and this will become one of the biggest personal challenges in the days to come: overcoming my mind’s compelling argument that I’m a bad person and a failure (I DID overcome; stay with me, don’t get caught up in the bad shit).

I watch her move from sadness to despondency, from despondency to fury; Irish-Italian Catholic fury. I’d witnessed this unique fury exactly three times in the six years I’d known her, twice toward another, once toward me. In each instance, I briefly feared for the life of the party on the receiving end.

When we finally reach the parking lot, she gets into her car and asks me if there’s anything else. I make a half-assed effort to have her see that we’ve exhausted every option. Didn’t we try everything? I realize I’m speaking as much to myself as I am to her. Regardless, she’s not listening. She mutters a goodbye under her breath before speeding away.

In the half dozen laps I make around the park afterward, I recall the futility of attaching oneself to an expectation, and the power of creating possibility. Expectations are static. You lose, you fail. You win, you realize it’s nothing special. Possibility, on the other hand, is different. You lose, you create a new possibility. You win, you create a new possibility.

Though I don’t believe it in that moment (remember, just because it sucks now doesn’t mean it will always suck), in the days to come, I will recover. And I will conquer. And so will she.

Somewhere in the distant past, I sold myself on the belief that there’s not a tragedy in this life that will make me give up. You have to decide that sort of thing BEFORE tragedy strikes. 11055343_10206828659705775_5582084695053198937_oI shared that belief with some of my closest peers and mentors, who true to their commitment to love and support their fellow human beings, incessantly and tirelessly reminded me that this is who I am. A survivor. A gladiator. Fearless. And the same applies to you who are reading this. Stand on me. It DOES get better. I swear.

Look for “About A Breakup, Part 4 of 5: The Fallout.”

Cheers.

About A Breakup, Part 2 of 5: Courage (The Cold War)

Note: Make no mistake. “About A Breakup” is a story of hope and overcoming adversity. In order to experience a breakthrough, you must experience a breakdown first. Don’t get all caught up in the tragedy. Understand that any descriptions of tragic events are written  for the purpose of illustrating the breakthroughs which will follow. Stay with me, friends.

Sometime in January of 2015, as I recall, I depart Alex’s (my fiancé’s) house as usual to start my week’s nursing work rotation. Moments before, I had hugged and kissed her as http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/alan-alda/images/26135914/title/alan-alda-photoshe left to begin HER nursing night shift. After her departure, as I’d done a hundred times before, I hugged Zeke, the sweetest dog ever, kissed his floppy ear, gave him a treat, locked Alex’s house, and departed.

Shortly after leaving her driveway, I’m struck with a trepidation, a panic. Call it a dark premonition. I have a momentarily vivid vision of life without Alex, of splitting up, of the relationship we’d built coming to an end.

She calls a little while later to make sure I’d left on time to get ample sleep. I mention the premonition to her, the fear still lingering, my voice unsteady. We chat about it briefly, and she assures me (as I’d grown accustomed to assuring so many friends and mentees), that no matter what, it will all work out.

About a year prior, we had begun to carry on some deep discussions with regard to the future of our relationship, having become engaged to be married. I know, I know. Work your shit out BEFORE popping the question. I think we’d found a peace with moving forward, even if every single minute detail wasn’t hammered out. Nonetheless, we found ourselves ebbing and flowing through some challenging conversations, and my heart was uneasy.

We would discuss, create a plan for how to generate new possibilities within the relationship, work the plan, and return to security and comfort. But we’d always somehow find ourselves back to being distanced, with lingering tension. So we’d discuss again. Make a plan again. Experience security and comfort for a time, and the distance would return. Again.

I had a few more of those random dark premonitions, each as vivid as the last. But I became well-versed in burying those gut feelings. It was too painful to think about. Envisioning all we’d worked for, and all the shit we’d have to deal with if we actually DID break up: relocating, the kids, the emotional aftermath, discussions with family, etc. I don’t recall how long I buried what my gut was saying, but it was a number of months at least. I went to great lengths to avoid what my gut was telling me. I feared the pain of change, despite the ultimate potential for happiness.

So I repeatedly resisted the urge to explore what was creating this unrest between us. I suppressed my intuition. If any feeling crept up that I couldn’t explain and centered around the future of our relationship, I avoided it like a drug seeker avoids Tylenol and NSAIDS. Again. And again. And again. In retrospect, though our relationship wasn’t what I would consider whole or complete (because WE weren’t whole and complete with ourselves, as I would discover), there was plenty about it that worked, we were comfortable, and neither of us was willing to challenge that. 

Somewhere around July 2015, the tension rose. We had a few heated arguments. I was angry at her for always putting the ball in my court to make a decision about where we stood. Of course, I should have been equally as angry at myself for doing the same damned thing. It’s like neither of us wanted to be the one to pull the trigger.

There was a ton of inner conflict and anxiety Waiting For The Wordwhile considering this choice. It’s like tapping into more courage than you can ever remember, in order to move on your gut instinct in pursuit of happiness, all the while praying that your gut instinct is wrong. 

I didn’t have it all worked out. I didn’t have it all tied down. But in late July 2015, with no particular reason other than I wasn’t happy (hell, can anyone explain gut instinct?), I made plans to break off the engagement with Alex. I think I reached a point where I just couldn’t ignore what my intuition was telling me any longer. It would be a lesson in dealing with failed expectations and navigating angry reactions (that make you briefly consider whether you’ll be getting out of the conversation alive, or as a ghost whose murder will be the topic of discussion for years to come). It DOES get better. I swear.

Look for “About A Breakup, Part 3 of 5: The Atom Bomb” next.

Cheers.

About A Breakup, Part 1 of 5: Code Angst (An Introduction)

Hell, forget soft intros. Here’s what you need to know: I’ve been through a divorce and a broken engagement. And I’m happy. And I have a stellar relationship with my ex-wife, her husband, and my ex-fiance. And my kids are thriving. The last time I visited them, E, one of their friends from home, flew up with me, courtesy of her kickass mother. And my ex-wife and her husband and OUR two kids and THEIR two kids and E and my ex-in-laws and I ALL went out for pizza and drinks. And it was a blast. AND THIS IS A STORY OF HOPE. 

So after my latest blog entry (addressing patient death), a bunch of you crack sleuths noticed the “About A Breakup” series and inquired about why I hadn’t finished it. I started it about two years prior, and it sort of fell by the wayside. What do losing patients and breakups have in common? Hey, don’t focus on the wrong part of the story. I just figure before I start routinely contributing to The Impossibility Movement again, I should complete the unfinished entries. Here’s an updated introduction to the “About A Breakup” series. Final entries are in progress. I’ll do my best to make each entry short, powerful, and to the point.

If you didn’t decipher it by the enigmatic title, this is a multi-post series about a real-life breakup, in this case, a broken engagement as experienced by me. I figure it applies to a wide range of broken relationships. I’m writing with the day-of-the-dead-2041971_1920intent to relate to YOU in your own breakup, personal tragedy, or otherwise crossroads, and to perhaps be a signpost to hope and joy on the other side. Hope and joy, dammit. I insist. 

At age 37, with a warm-up marriage (a.k.a. “divorce”) already under my belt, I would describe the experience of defaulting on a subsequent, almost-marriage (a.k.a. “engagement”) as something along the lines of a hormonally-saturated lovesick teen, geeked out on Pixy Stix, standing in the middle of a fire and brimstone hailstorm during the First Zombie Apocalypse, armed with only a Little Mermaid toothbrush for self-preservation. Yeah, it hurt. And yeah, I’ve been through the turd ringer. And yeah, I’ve got some mad credentials. Stand on me. It DOES get better. I swear.

So here’s the thing. I’m gonna talk about some shitty experiences in this series. Some dark and frustrating and sad and plain old shitty experiences. And like all human brains, YOUR human brain is going to zone in, like Corgnelius The Corgi to a Poodle in heat, solely on the negative emotions, out of a sense of fear that YOU might have to experience the same emotions in your pursuit of personal happiness. Vintage Muse: Stevie NicksDo not buy into that mentality. It’s bullshit. We’re all well-trained to visualize all the worst case scenarios and to convince ourselves that stepping up and saying “this is what I want in life” will certainly lead to torment and regret. But you deserve a life that you love. And for all that we say we want in life, we certainly spend vast amounts of brain cells on what we have to lose, and almost no brain cells on what we have to gain.

In order for you to get the GREATEST impact out of this series, you MUST understand that no transformation in the history of mankind has occurred without a meltdown occurring first. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be a transformation, would it? Suppose you found yourself in a state of beautiful and happy and unicorns-shitting-Skittles bliss. And suddenly, you awoke from your dream and found yourself in a state of beautiful and happy and unicorns-shitting-Skittles bliss. Yeah, you read it right. It’s redundant. If all you ever knew was total bliss, you wouldn’t know a transformation if it bit you in ass. How the hell would you know the difference? How would you know blissful light without experiencing darkness? The greatest and most powerful transformations that I’ve ever experienced in my life came on the tail end of the greatest heartbreaks and tragedies. 

 It’s Yin and Yang, my friends. This is what all the great spiritual teachers mean when

imagesthey say “delight in your suffering.” They don’t mean have a tea party in the middle of the shit storm and throw rainbow confetti and eat fucking cupcakes with sprinkles and bathe in a champaign-filled hot tub whilst being battered by rain and wind and flying cows and washed-up celebs and whatever. They simply mean that endless possibilities exist when there’s nowhere to go but up. Remember that.

When life sucks now, we’re convinced that life will suck for eternity. But the future isn’t as shitty as you are convinced it’s going to be. Sure, it hurts like hell when it’s happening. You wouldn’t be human if it didn’t. But too often we choose to endure the mediocre because we’re afraid of how much it will hurt to go after what you really want in life. This is your happiness at stake. As my dear Aunt Janet so poetically puts it,

“You just have to keep reminding yourself that it’s going to suck. Until it doesn’t suck anymore.”

Now don’t be half-assed about it. If you’re gonna start reading this series, see it through. Way, way, way (sometimes WAY the hell down there), underneath our tears and sorrow and guilt and regret, there’s a flame burning within us from a time when we knew ourselves to be forces of nature, before the world told us we were worthless, and we started to believe that crap. I’m not guaranteeing that this series will change your life. But I do guarantee that you won’t get the full effect if you don’t read the whole thing. Stick it out, my friends. Hope and joy, dammit!

Look for About A Breakup, Part 2 of 5: Courage (The Cold War).

Cheers.

Nelson Mandela, Dementors, and … a DeLorean?

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This week I took some time to review the legacy of Nelson Mandela, and I was incredibly moved. The website of The New York Times contains a full transcript of the speech he delivered to Cape Town on the day of his release, after serving 27 years in prison (you can view the transcript here). The opening of his speech struck a chord within me. He states,

I stand here before you not as a prophet but as a humble servant of you, the people. Your tireless and heroic sacrifices have made it possible for me to be here today. I therefore place the remaining years of my life in your hands.

Wow. It absolutely astounds me, given the generations-old, ego-driven mentality with which each of us struggles to a greater or lesser degree, that anyone could walk out of prison after 27 years and make his first point of business to dedicate his life to his fellow citizens. I, for one, am not so sure I wouldn’t put off the referenced speech for a month or two in favor of taking in a few dozen movies and ingesting my weight in popcorn and soda, or having some of my friends take me on a road trip whilst I poked my head through the sunroof, wearing only a kilt, with my face painted like William Wallace, screaming, “SYNONYMS FOR FREEEEDOOOOOOM!!!” (because the face paint thing is already dangerously close to cliche without using the exact dialogue), or visiting the nearest casino and having a few drinks with the little straw hats in them . . . well, you get it. Having just been given my life back, I’d be quite hesitant to give it away again.

Reflecting on Mandela’s life and the stand he made for his fellow human beings, I am reminded of a question that a friend and lifelong mentor once posed to me. He said, “Are you breathing life into others or taking life away from them?” The conversation which followed was a rather disconcerting revelation of the latter in my case. If it had ever crossed my mind that I was even remotely as great of a man as Nelson Mandela, a brief recap of all my experiences would show that I was, in fact, a little more like a Dementor1 (“Check the footnotes, y’all.” -Beastie Boys).

After making that distinction, a change of perception occurred, and I became very present to something that I hadn’t previously noticed about myself: The world revolved around me. The days that followed were marked with an increasing awareness of just how much life I sucked from others on a daily basis, like a Dementor (well, except for the whole soulless and evil thing). If I was in a conversation with someone, I didn’t give a crap about what was happening in his life. All I cared about was declaring what was going on my own life. Actually, it wasn’t as much of a declaration as it was an ongoing effort to convince everyone in my life that I was happy, while simultaneously bitching about my horrible, horrible circumstances.

It was enough to make me want to jump into the nearest plutonium-powered DeLorean, go back in time several years, and pistol-whip myself. My God, was this what my friends and family had to deal with? And yet it was those dark times, that life-sucking mentality, coupled with the never-ending patience and love of family and friends that would lead to transformation.

Dear friends, personal experience has taught me that true vitality cannot exist within a life which constantly feeds upon the life of another. If it is true vitality you desire, consider that the very expression of your own life depends directly on the lives of those around you. Look into the lives of history’s greatest and most respected leaders, such as the late Nelson Mandela, and you will see that the vast majority of them found true life by giving life.

I have found no greater joy in life than to touch, to move, to inspire another human being.


1. soulless and evil creature of the night, made to suck the positive vibes from various characters in the Harry Potter books; allergic to hugs and peace symbols1

Intro pic located at:
http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/pix/212091.htm
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Two Breakthroughs, Part 2 of 2: Fearless

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Disclaimer: The following post is written from a place of love. Please read it in its entirety, and understand that no hatred exists within me for any human being.

The psychological condition of fear is divorced from any concrete and true immediate danger. It comes in many forms: unease, worry, anxiety, nervousness, tension, dread, phobia, and so on. This kind of psychological fear is always of something that might happen, not of something that is happening now.

from The Power Of Now by Eckhart Tolle

I will tell you the story of how I came to embrace fearlessness as a way of being.

Some time in the not-too-distant past, I am involved in a meditation exercise of sorts. I’m already reluctant to proceed, primarily because today’s exercise involves a request of me to explore what I fear the most. I’ll tell you what I fear the most: this meditation. But I close my eyes and briefly, with caution, allow my spirit to roam wherever it wishes, that is, until my ego realizes that my spirit is taking this exercise seriously. I quickly retreat to my warm and fuzzy comfort zone, much like a dog who detests baths, running into his kennel as the water begins to flow. But my spirit persists. To my ego’s chagrin, I eventually find that I am deep within the catacombs of myself. There are cobwebs and dust bunnies everywhere. Apparently I haven’t frequented this place in a few decades, and it makes sense. It’s damned creepy in here. And dark. Well, I tried.I turn to leave.

Of a sudden, some images begin to flicker within my imagination. Upon further exploration, I realize that I have begun to visualize a particular conversation I had with my girlfriend Alex’s parents three years ago, which occurred shortly after we began dating. Actually, it wasn’t as much a conversation as it was a (quite successful) attempt on their part to make it clear to me that I would be dating their daughter over their consummately departed bodies. And I instantly made the decision to excommunicate them from my life . . . for three years. For three years I had a wonderful dating relationship with Alex and no relationship with her parents. I refused to associate with them.

So that the reader understands, my girlfriend, Alex, and I had met most unexpectedly about three years prior in nursing school. I was not looking for a relationship, finding myself only a few months past a divorce. Every counselor and piece of literature I could find suggested a one-year time window between divorce and dating, which didn’t really bother me, because I had a slightly longer time window in mind (until my cold death) for being single. Even still, I could not deny the connection I felt with her. This connection was overshadowed by my unwavering mentality with regard to several things:

1. We were nowhere near the clinically recommended time window for dating. If the books and counselors were correct, this would certainly ensure the horrendous and timely death of our seemingly delightful relationship. Strike.
2. I was ten years her senior. If we each had rewound a decade, I would have become a 21-year-old child molester. Mother of God. Strike.
3. I was raised Protestant. She was raised Catholic. I was about sixty percent sure that this interreligious fraternizing would at best abolish us from any hope of heavenly bliss, and at worst, give us a one-way ticket to a certain flaming inferno, complete with autographed pitchforks. Kiss of death.

In all honesty, most of what Alex’s folks communicated to me only served to reinforce what notions already existed within my mind about our relationship. Additionally, on all points of contention, Alex remained calm and steadfast in her hope that we would forever be spiritually connected, dating or not.

Note: So much of my perception has changed, and I look forward to addressing some of my more spiritually-based discoveries in future posts.

Returning to the meditation on fear, I feel myself becoming annoyed. My dense spirit obviously does not understand the point of this exercise. The aforementioned conversation with Alex’s parents left me angry, yes; but fearful? Certainly not. My ego rushes to intervene, politely telling my spirit that we will be meditating on that “fearful” experience over my consummately departed body. But my spirit persists in reproducing that experience as long as it takes to realize just how saturated with fear I am. I am paralyzed by it and powerless against it. Through guided imagery, I revisit that conversation again, and again, and again. And then a most curious thing happens.

I begin to interpret the “harsh” words of that conversation from another place. Momentarily, I am not listening to the words of Alex’s parents as personal insults. I’m looking deeper. What are Alex’s parents really communicating? What commitment lies underneath their words? And I see it: They fear for their daughter. Their love for Alex, their commitment to her well-being and happiness, runs so deeply that any perceived threat to that elicits a reaction which would strike fear, indeed. They are operating from a place of love as it occurs to them in that moment.

Immediately after the meditation, I called Alex’s parents, and after three years of resentment, had a conversation with each of them for the very first time. A few months later, we had a proper introduction in person. Not long after that, I stepped into their home without hesitation, and everyone in her family welcomed me with open arms. That experience continues to remain a memorable one and a remarkable display of the absolute joy, power and freedom which accompanies love and forgiveness. Additionally, that experience translated into a monumental loss of fear in every other area of my life.

It has been said that the major driving force behind every action is either fear or love. Do your life’s decisions revolve around a fear of what may happen, or a love of what’s possible?

Janet FearlessPersonal Snapshot: 2012 October

Intro pic located at:
flickr.com/photos/free-stock/8425076629/sizes/z/in/pool-77356438@N00/
Emilian Robert Vicol
Flicker Public Domain Photos
Taken on September 25, 2009
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