Putting a Self-Respecting Foot Down for Rest

It’s been quieter on this space than I’d like it to be, but that’s because it’s been an exceptionally full year of speaking – conferences, webinars and most recently (and *so* enjoyably!), podcasts.

After my podcast episode with the lovely Chris and Claire Sandys from The Silent Why on “Loss of Health and Life in Paediatric Patients,” I got to have a subsequent conversation with the amazing Lisa Keefauver for her popular podcast, Grief is a Sneaky B!tch. My episode with her will likely air around November 15th, so stay tuned for details!

What I loved about the two podcast episodes is that while they both explored my journey, work and experiences as a pediatric ICU nurse, they were not very redundant in content. The Silent Why episode digs into a lot about my lived experience walking closely and deeply with my patients and families in their grief. The Grief is a Sneaky B!tch episode feels like a wonderful part-two to that conversation, as it takes us into healthcare culture, strongly shaped by broader societal culture, which remains so grief-averse and constantly pressures us into the superhero mold, often at the risk of neglecting our own humanity and hearts. I love the work both of these podcasts are doing to help us become more grief-literate. It was a joy to experience how both conversations brought us through some honest, hard places into new spaces of hope and freedom.

After an intense year of speaking, and after being on the receiving end of some wonderfully thoughtful, insightful, questions from my podcast interviewers, I am wanting very much in these remaining two months of the year to settle into a time of quiet, of personal rest, and better listening (despite the flurry of holiday activities already madly stirring around us).

I suspect that many, if not all of you, who are reading this, are weary. Overwhelmed with life’s ongoing demands. Feeling the pressure to constantly produce, constantly thrive (and do it publicly), in all seasons for everyone around you.

My garden, the daily sunrise and sunset, and my beloved tortoises (who just went into hibernation on Halloween and will sleep until Easter), remind me that all of us who live on this earth have both the need and the permission to have quieter, dormant seasons.

This is what dormancy will look like for me in the next couple of months, as my heart, mind, body and soul all plead in unison for rest.

  • My upcoming personal retreat, for two nights, three days. I’m creating a plan to severely limit my internet engagement because I think I need to feel the degree to which I jump online as a self-soothing mechanism, and I need to feel the good/hard tension of staying disconnected for a relatively prolonged period of time. I need to feel time being slow, unrushed, unproductive, and the way that humbles and heals me.
  • Releasing myself from the pressure to constantly produce content, words, posts, self-expression. I need to re-engage the skill of close listening. This doesn’t mean endless ingestion of every podcast, every news story, every social media post, every mind-numbing bit of chatter even from my own beloved children. It means choosing carefully what books I’ll read, how much online time I’ll spend (and how/where/with whom). It means asking much more thoughtful questions of God, of myself, of certain people around me, and leaning deeply into what I hear. It means silencing, as much as possible, the excess noise and scrolling and unfiltered intake of “sound bytes” that get in the way of substance.
  • Choosing carefully how I will – or won’t – fill my calendar so that I’m not constantly mentally overloaded with how I am going to manage chaos and pivot from one activity to the next. Not everything has to be homemade. I can say no to more than I think I can. Again, that permission for dormancy is key.

My ego grates against this, to be honest. But what I need is to lean into the faith that dormancy is permitted, valuable in its own right (not just for some ultimate goal of better productivity), and necessary for the health of my soul.

How does this pertain to nursing? Nursing in Nov 2022 is chaotic, overwhelming, even desperate. All the high-level “fixes” that we want – better staffing, better work conditions, better pay – are not coming anytime soon, though we certainly should continue advocating fiercely and loudly for them. If I’m to stay in this work, which I still plan to do, I have to do what I can to shape my personal rhythms in often counter-cultural ways to give myself freedom and space from excessive, relentless demands. Please understand, this is not to say that all the responsibility for our well-being as nurses is on our shoulders alone. I’m not making excuses for gaslighting. But as we advocate and wait painfully for the system to change, we are not entirely powerless over our own lives. We can identify the ways our broader culture tries to sweep us along in excess madness and say NOPE.

Life and culture and politics in a big city, particularly as we enter into holiday (and RSV/flu) season, will never give me that permission. Well-meaning friends and family and our spiritual communities will often keep asking and asking of us in one way or another. It’s more imperative than ever that we give ourselves the God-sanctioned permission to rest.

We don’t have to do it all, show it all, be it all. We can say no. We can rest.

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