bear repeating :)
For those who’ve been reading along for a bit you know how I feel about footnotes. (For those who are new to this story…WELCOME. Here’s your primer1).
I’ve just discovered something…maybe it’s a substack glitch or maybe it’s an intended brake for those of us who rest our metaphorical writing-feet too heavily on the footnote (😂). Whatever the reason, the hiccup is this: I cannot add a footnote to the title of this story installment!
Therefore, instead of using the title I intended, I moved it HERE so I can give credit where credit is due.
I am taking this invitation on! And in so doing, am seeking all opportunities to be a generous giver-upper of laughs…because I can!
You’re invited to be a giver-upper of laughs with me…because you can too! Starting right now.
Flying home after spending far too little time meeting too few of the precious souls participating in a precious meeting3 about how to spend precious time caring for other souls to ensure what precious time they have is even more precious, I am itching, scratching, restlessly repositioning my fingers on this keypad to share what’s been transpiring these passed 7 days4
For those who’ve been waiting for this next story installment, your wait is almost over.5 I had needed an unintended period of convalescence (aka quarantine) which prompted a series of required and inspired movie-viewings while hunkered in the folds of a precious cozy blanket to ease the rigors of fevered dreams. The Princess Bride is Number One on our family’s playlist for films to watch when sick. A craving for parental love queues Contact6 as the double-feature. It compels me to need to re-read the book. It becomes my only-slightly-less cozy companion to my WORRY7 blanket, packing it with me wherever I go...upstairs, back to bed, to a new quarantine zone outside the home and then, once finally cleared for contact with the greater world, into my suitcase for this 24 our trip I am on...(spoiler alert: which is less distance than Ellie and her crewmates travel in Contact, though in nearly the same amount of time8).
At the conference, I was speaking about how to listen deeply. How to listen with the heart. How curiosity, fueled by LOVE, is what creates lasting connection.
I wore these shoes with intention to Communicate Love from my heart and soles.
Turns out, the Universe listens deeply, constantly.
I had the gift of meeting the exact person who happened to be wanting to be met, just before it was time for me to present my talk. I asked this young woman (who goes by the name of Jennifer) how she had come to work in hospice. Jennifer generously shared her story of “…being led by God…By a greater intention…By Love.” Jennifer had no idea I work in hospice. She had no way of knowing I was about to give a talk about LOVE. Her gratitude for being able to share her path to discovering the passionate sounds of her heart’s calling was palpable as she concluded, "You have to have the awareness. If you open your eyes, there's so much out there for you."
A few precious hours later, I am back at the airport. I quickly slip into a restroom on the way to my flight in the hopes of finding a large stall so I can change out of my professional attire and into more casual travel attire. I am thwarted. Every stall is full. I quickly exit and continue down the terminal in search of another restroom en route.
I strike gold9 on my next attempt. The largest stall is vacant! Once comfortably in my comfy clothes I head for the bay of sinks just outside the stall to wash up. As I look for a sink with sufficient dry space to rest my belongings I notice a tiny pull-string bag with golden swirls resting against the mirror. It’s the kind of sack that often holds jewelry or small trinkets. At first I dismiss it thinking it must have been accidentally left and the person who misplaced it will surely be coming back, so best to leave it be. Then, on closer inspection, I see a message inside the bag. It reads:
“Art Abandonment is a group of artists who leave their creations in various locations around the globe for a lucky, unsuspecting person to find — like YOU….”
A wave of giddiness consumes me. As if a sprinkling of virtual fairy dust has just been bestowed upon my head, I feel as if I have sprouted a set of virtual wings that want to take flight as I alight the rest of the way to my flight. I place the unexpected gift into my pocket with anticipation of reveling in the full revealing of my discovery once settled onboard. Jennifer’s words echo like wingbeats in my ears:
"If you open your eyes, there's so much out there for you."
7 days ago10, while in the emergency department, supported by my WORRY blanket, having already communicated my apologies for causing distress to all I was disturbing, disrupting or unable to support, I was surrounded by people whose only purpose was to care for me. I was never once worried about me.
Not even when the attending doctor declared, “So we will need to admit you to the ICU.”
My first thought, Good grief, I wonder if my patients are going to recognize me11 and WORRY that I am unable to help care for them today? Or that they might get even sicker from whatever I have and could have given to them.
It's not that the intensity of the implications of being admitted to the Intensive Care Unit escaped my understanding. I knew where the ICU was. I knew what types of medical conditions necessitated that level of attentive care.12 I knew it meant time was of the essence.
I suspect the decision to admit me to the ICU had something to do with the fact that I was reluctant to lie down for a CT scan.
“We just don’t understand what is causing all the swelling and exudate13 in your larynx,” the throat doctor said after retracting the camera from my throat the first time. “If we attempt to biopsy it, it would require putting you on a breathing machine and you wouldn't be able to come off it given the swelling. So we might need to get a CT scan to see if we can see what else is going on.”
“How long?” I quickly wrote on my clipboard. I knew CT scans generally only take a few minutes (as compared to other imaging procedures like an MRI). Yet, in this moment, I needed specifics. “I should first try to lie flat to see how long I can be still. I am worried my throat feels ‘heavy’ when I lean back.” I added to my scrawl.
This was the only moment when I actually experienced WORRY for myself. For my own well-being. I was worried if I was forced to lie on my back while in radiology, I would lose my ability to breathe, resulting in a Code being called. And every doctor knows the worst place to run a Code in the hospital is in radiology.14
“Let’s skip the CT scan,” the attending quickly concluded. “We will just treat you empirically for the swelling and an infection. Steroids and antibiotics. And we will closely monitor to see how you do.” (Hence, the ICU).
For some reason, whether from my counting seconds for so long or from the need to be silent and listen deeply, time slowed to a near standstill after hearing the letters “ICU.” Not like I was waiting for time to pass the way I am on this flight, eager to be home and in the arms of my family. Rather, it was as if TIME no longer existed.
What I needed had been determined.
The new ED nurse introduced himself at the start of a new shift. I had no sense that shifts were shifting. He smiled and said, “You probably won’t be here much longer. They don’t like keeping people in the ED who are supposed to be in the ICU.”
I had no where to be. I had no thing to do. I became increasingly, extremely present. Acutely aware. My eyes were opening in a wholly holy new way. I had no idea it was happening. I just was.
Gratitude and Grace filled my senses. All I experienced was LOVE.
To prepare us all for the Shift change into the Intensity of the ICU, I need to make sure you continue to have sustenance for this journey you have joined. As promised in my inaugural installment, the only fuel you need is what gives you power to read and what keeps your heart beating.
So, for all who offer a comment describing what you LOVE from the bottom of your soul (or sole), I will randomly select 3 people to receive a gift certificate to one of my favorite shoe artists, John Fleuvog, so you can float, skip, dance, be inspired and give up laughs generously to all you encounter -- because I can.15
I am so glad YOU ARE HERE!
Dying to hear what comes next? No need to die…subscribe instead! And receive the next installment automatically:) Thank YOU for joining this journey to heal the planet and our humanity♥️
WELCOME to footnotes. So glad YOU ARE HERE! I LOVE using them to capture my mind’s branching and deeply connected stream of consciousness without directly interrupting the flow of what you are reading…. unless of course it has, in which case you can now decide how your mind likes to proceed: reading footnotes as they come in the story; saving them to the end (each is hyperlinked so you can quickly toggle back and forth between text and footnote) or skipping them all together. The choice is always yours:)
Words spoken by Sara Kraner, RN, a home care nurse case manager from Michigan I had the pleasure of sitting next to while attending the Forum On Aging conference (if I could footnote the footnotes you’d have one HERE. It’s coming…). Sara delighted in introducing her colleague as a person who “…gives up laughs generously” which is too good to keep to myself so now it’s yours to use, too. Enjoy!
Or, if you skip the next few paragraphs it can be completely over and you can continue reading from where I left off. The choice is always yours. (Yep, you got it — Some redundancies… bear repeating:)
The film Contact, is an adaptation of the book by Carl Sagan. It is the story of Dr. Eleanor Arroway, a radiotelescope astronomer who lost her father at a young age. The story chronicles her quest to make contact with extraterrestrial intelligent life while always longing to make contact with her father. (Something that resonates deeply with my own personal quests). In the end, Contact is about listening deeply to our hearts. It is a phenomenal read and intensely relevant to our lives today despite it having been written in the mid ‘80s. If you’ve not read it and are even the slightest bit curious, I highly recommend you give yourself the gift of picking up a copy. For the first 3 people who read this footnote and send me a message I will gladly mail you a copy (paper, electronic or audio, whichever you prefer). My treat! Becasue I can. (If I could footnote “3” you’d understand why I selected that number. Since I cannot—(another substack footnote glitch or brake?) then it will have to remain a mystery. Trust me, though, it is intentional).
If you are WORRIED my my use of a WORRY blanket, thank you, AND please (re)discover its meaning by reading THIS installment. I promise it is nothing to WORRY about.
Given time is all relative🤣 (A reference to Contact and THIS story installment that I couldn’t pass up as an invitation to give up laughs generously;)
Literally. Wait for it….
If you are feeling unsure about this transition and are confused by the reference of “7 days ago” I invite you to (re)visit Time.
While working in the hospital, I have become recognizable less by my name or role and more by my features: long curly hair (lots of hair, originally brown, now white); wings embroidered on the back of my white coat (representing all the people I have been privileged to care for. I know whose got my back♥️), and now, a headband that looks like it was made in the heart of Haight-Ashbury. With required masking policies, I have adopted wearing this now signature headband because of its thoughtful design. It has two buttons positioned near my ears that act to secure the ear bands from the masks thus taking pressure off my ears. This headband is NOT subtle. Anyone (patient, family or hospital staff) who has seen me in this neon rainbow tie-dyed contraption now recognizes me by my headband alone. I wore it to the ER because I was anticipating needing to wear a mask for a long time….
The ICU has a maximum of 1:1 or 1:2 RN-to-patient ratio meaning whatever is going on is tenuous. Which brings me to my second thought (for those interested). It happened to be in parallel with my husband’s and, as it turns out, the chief of the Palliative Care Division at our hospital. And that was to consider requesting a palliative care (PC) consult anytime any person is experiencing serious illness, which, being admitted to the ICU could certainly signify. My chief texted me the following BEFORE I knew I was going to the ICU: “I heard…that you are in the ED. So sorry to hear. Let me know how I can help.” I replied, “Thank you. Not intending in NEEDING PC though always welcomed.” My chief replies, “Assuming and hoping this is not a PC situation — and I do have other ways to help😉”
Exudate: medical speak for pus/gunk/something yucky looking that seems to be coming out of some body part.
Code: When an overhead announcement alerts the hospital Code team to drop everything and come running because someone has either lost their ability to breathe or their heart has stopped, or both. Okay, so maybe I was still more Worried about causing others distress….