One Year Out: On Post-Grad Nursing Life

I’m a year out of nursing school. Dang. I honestly still swear I only made it by the good graces of a few of my professors (pretty sure I should have never passed A&P freshman year). I think this has been the wildest year of my life so far- I’ve had to deal with not getting my dream job, leaving my friends in SoCal, and saying some hard and necessary words. But I’ve made it. I’d like to dedicate this post to all my nursing people who are either new grads or getting ready for their last year of school.

1.Pat yourself on the back for how far you’ve come. Remember how you used to get sick the night before clinicals? Now you can walk into a patient’s room and introduce yourself without shaking. You can also probably do some pretty cool nursey stuff. And care plans? No problem! Stay humble though. Learning is a lifelong process, and the first day on the job, you’re going to feel like your baby nurse self all over again. Just smile and ask lots of questions. You’ll be fine.

2. Don’t do what everyone else tells you to do. Your professors/classmates/parents may seem like they’ve got it all figured out and think you should do exactly what they did, but here’s the thing: only you know you. Crazy, right? If you hate med-surg, don’t do it. If you hate psych, don’t do it. You probably have a pretty good feel for what you like and dislike. Utilize that as you look for jobs. Don’t take the first thing you’re offered because you’re scared nothing better will come along. It will.

3. Conversely,it’s ok not to totally love your job. I feel like nurses like to talk about how we’re “called” to nursing (which is true), but you don’t have to feel like freaking Florence Nightingale every single day on the job. Flo must have disliked parts of her job too.

4. Stick up for yourself. Know your limits. It is ok to say no to an extra shift. It’s also ok to walk away from something that isn’t right for you. Self-care, people. It’s important. You can advocate for your patients all you want, but if you can’t advocate for yourself, you’re going to end up burnt out.

4.  Don’t be afraid to be different. I seriously thought something was wrong with me for a long time because of how much I disliked traditional nursing jobs. I loved my ED preceptorship, but as my preceptor said, “the emergency department is community health in a hospital setting”. I discovered that I am absolutely passionate about community health! I love interacting in the community and building relationships with my patients. Community health lets me be a holistic nurse; bedside nursing never afforded me the time to do that. A new grad residency in a big-name hospital on a med-surg floor may look really good on a resume, and it could be what you love. But if you hate it, leave. The beauty of nursing is that there is a role for everyone: if you hate something, there is always another job to try!

5. Buy good shoes. Those $20 white leather tennis shoes you bought for clinical aren’t going to cut it anymore. Use your first adult paycheck to buy some hideously ugly, terribly comfortable clogs. Your feet and back will thank you.

Alright lovelies. That’s all the wisdom I have to dispense for tonight. Now go do some self care!

Later Days,

Jess

PS: My favorite act of self care recently has been doing the twist like Mrs. Mia Wallace. It’s a lot of fun. But don’t do drugs, kids.

On Dangerous Women in Scripture: The Story of Sarah

Howdy folks!

This month, the SheLoves community is focusing on the idea of “Dangerous Women”. Something about that title of “Dangerous Woman” has resounded in my bones since the day I heard it. What a strange, lovely, valorous way to live! As I’ve been following along on this dangerous journey over at SheLoves, the lectionary has been carrying me through the story of Abraham and Sarah. And it’s occurred to me that Mamma Sarah (we have Father Abraham, I’d like to argue for a case of a song about Mother Sarah who was FREAKING AWESOME) herself was a very dangerous woman. She trusts that God has spoken to her husband (who is a bit of a sketchy character), and packs up her life and walks around the desert with Abraham. And then: my favorite story in all of Scripture, in which Sarah is given a covenant of her own-

They said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” 10 Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?” 13 The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.” 15 But Sarah denied, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid. He said, “Oh yes, you did laugh.”

The Lord dealt with Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as he had promised. Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to his son whom Sarah bore him. And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. Now Sarah said, “God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” And she said, “Who would ever have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

Genesis 18: 9-15; 21:1-7 NRSV

As a woman who is equal parts laughter and fierceness, it resonates with me to find a kindred women in Scripture who has the audacity to laugh at God’s promises, then argue with Him that no, she never laughed (also: don’t you just love the wording of of God’s response in the NRSV here “Oh yes, you did laugh”). In the Christian community, where loud, silly women are often silenced into submission, it feels wonderfully subversive to have recorded in our Holy text a woman’s belly laugh at the tangible gifts of God. Idelette and Kelley from SheLoves recorded their thought process around this idea of Dangerous women (watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfD0YFoo8YM#t=167), and Idelette talks about how her living as a dangerous woman means coming out of silence. I think for Sarah, this was her Dangerous Woman moment- honest, audible emotion towards Yahweh. And all who hear laugh with her. Look at the healing that laughter brought her: after a lifetime of bareness, she has a son who brings her more joy than she could have ever imagined.Her laughter turns from cynical disbelief in Chapter 18, to outright joy in Chapter 21. Is anything too wonderful for God? Apparently not.

I’m going to be mulling over this idea of Dangerous Women for awhile, folks. There is something so incredibly revolutionary and liberating about it, and, like most good theology, it will be a slightly nagging presence in my mind for quite some time to come.

Later Days,

Jess

PS: You know I never leave you without a little something. Today, it’s Brandi Carlile’s NPR Tiny Desk concert. She released a new album yesterday and you all NEED it. Trust me. Let’s call it- “A Soundtrack to Living as a Dangerous Woman”

God as a Jewish Mother

Howdy folks!

It’s been a while. I know. But my life has been busy and strange lately, and so writing has sort of fallen to the wayside. But I’ve managed to create this little bit about communion (imagine that. yes, I know I’ve written on it already but i JUST LOVE IT SO MUCH). Enjoy!

I believed in God from a young age. It just made sense to me; of course there was a loving God who created the world! I credit much of my spiritual formation to my very early years spent in the Episcopal Church. Although I was (and am) a child incredibly prone to daydreams, I somehow absorbed the liturgy into my soul, even when I was searching for fairies in the rafters (seriously. The church I went to had these tiny lights way up in the exposed beams of the ceiling, and I was 1000% convinced they were faeries). An Episcopal service involves all the senses: taste, smell, touch, sound, sight. I think this is how it managed to seep into my soul; children need all five senses to be stimulated to learn and grow. I started participating in communion from a young age (bonus: Episcopalians use REAL wine so I became somewhat of a sommelier at age six), and though I might not have been able to tell you the theological significance behind the bread and wine, my spirit and mind hushed at the holy, imminent presence of God I encountered while partaking in the elements.

I’ve been confronted recently with the repeated imagery of bread and wine in the scripture. Ann Lammot talks about how God meets Elijah in the wilderness as a Jewish Mother “Eat something, you’re tired”. And Jesus, he talks about being the bread of life, and sanctifies the most of foods to be the food of new and unending life. And when he rises from the dead, he cooks for his friends. I joke a lot about how I pride myself on knowing how to keep things alive, and I think God brags to Himself about how well he knows how to sustain life (side note: can all my nursing people just geek out with me and IMAGINE how awesome God would be at teaching A&P or pathophys? “Ah, yes, the purjenke fibers. I made those. This is how they work”) And that’s what is so beautiful about God as the Jewish Mom- she’s so concerned about caring for us, making sure we have a good meal in our bellies, she makes the emblems of our faith the very sustenance of life. In a faith where our main man took off for heaven about 2000 years ago and left us with His living spirit and no physical body, there is a promise in the bread. Take, eat. Hold this wafer in your hand for a minute, taste the sweetness in your mouth. Hear the words read over you. See your brothers and sisters around you. Breathe deep the scent of wine, crushed grape and crushed body. And for just two minutes, I have a tangible hold on God.

 All of this to say, I’ve returned to the doors of my Mother Church. I go to an 8 am service at a small Episcopal Church up the hill where I am the youngest person by 40 years. And for one hour a week, my soul is anchored in the mystery of my faith again- Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. The words embedded in the fabric of my soul from age five, and they near move me to tears now. Evangelicalism has shaped me in countless beautiful and necessary ways, but I have so missed the rhythms of liturgy and lectionary. Also, I’m so sorry to those whose favorite bit of worship service is singing. Us 8 am people, we know we all sound like hungover frogs that early. No one is quite awake yet, so we do each other the courtesy of refraining from song. I do my best worshipful singing in the car on my way to work anyhow (Also- I can swagger about my departure from Evangelicalism all I want but Bethel’s new album is fabulous and you should tots treat yo soul to a copy).

Later Days,

Jess

PS: You know I can never make a post without a video, so here’s one that made me laugh pretty hard this week:

Wibbly-Wobbly Timey-Wimey Lessons, or, How to Stop Placing your Human Identity in Futile Things

These past few months have been some of the hardest months of my life. I have struggled with doubt and insecurity on a daily basis. I’ve wondered if I chose the right career, if I made the right choice to move home, and if I even wanted to be a nurse any more. I’ve spent pretty much every Tuesday afternoon on my therapist’s couch, struggling with how I have wrapped my entire identity in the profession of nursing. I’ve spent the past 8 years of my life striving towards the end goal of being a nurse. Every step I have made has brought me closer to that goal, and I centered my very being on my performance in this area that I felt was (is) the unique call of God on my life. In this arduous process, I’ve learned a few things I would love to share. I am no wise sage, I only have 22 years of  life experience, so I humbly offer a few morsels of experience (sprinkled with nerdy references, of course.)

First, your value as a human being is not connected with your actions. I think we equate what we do with WHO we are way too much. Even if we do it in the name of “the Lord”, that does not make our identity as Beloved any greater or less. Simply BEING is what our value is. We are God-breathed poetry, beloved no matter how many beautiful or ugly things we do. Nursing is a beautiful and important work of mercy, but I do not have to be a nurse to be Beloved. I could continue to focus on my art* and mooch off of my parents forever, and that would not increase or decrease my intrinsic worth as a human anymore or less. Erik Erikson, a social psychologist, posed that there are a series of tasks every person must meet to continue to advance in human development. For teenagers, the task is identity vs. role confusion (who am I?), and for young adults, the task is intimacy vs. isolation (will I place myself in vulnerability to form intimate relationships, or will I remain isolated?).  Both of these make TOTAL sense when you observe both of these age groups in social settings. I propose that both of these tasks can be met in the person of Christ- our identity as human beings is Beloved; we exist in intimate relationship with our creator and our family, the Body of Christ. Basically, don’t place your identity in what you do. It will fail.

Second, your life is your life. Your career path and life choices do not need to look like everyone else. I was so frustrated with my inability to get an interview for an acute care, inpatient new grad residency. I kept thinking “I have to do this because this is what everyone is doing”. False. Just because everyone else is doing something doesn’t mean it’s right for you (shocking, I know.) Also, if you hate med-surg, don’t work in med-surg (that’s medical-surgical for all you non-nurses). I know every nurse and their grandma seems to think this is the ONLY way to be a good nurse. But here’s my humble opinion: med-surg is a really fabulous place to learn and practice basic nursing skills (placing foley’s, IV’s, learning traction…), but you can train a poodle to place an IV. There are innate nursing qualities that cannot be taught, and are applicable to every setting- compassion, kindness, advocacy, honesty, resourcefulness… you can use these skills in every single setting you find yourself in, whether its a big-name Magnet hospital, or a humble community health agency.

Third, to (roughly) quote Cheryl Strayed, “Every day, there is a sunrise and a sunset. You can chose to be there for them or not”. In your life, you can chose to be present for the ever day, very ordinary occurrences, or you can be so focused on your own little world in your head that you lose the day you are living. I’m trying to slow down a little, watch the birds in my backyard, play with my old dog**, and stop obsessing over the million thoughts that seek to consume every last ounce of my energy.

Finally, stop worrying over whether or not whatever you are doing is “God’s will” for your life. I don’t think there’s some great cosmic timeline for my life that I must follow to a tee unless I want my world to crumble. God is not that small, and Her timetable is a lot more wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey than we can think. One of my all time favorite verses is Micah 6:8 “And what does the Lord require of you but to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God”. God want’s a relationship with us, and from that relationship springs a desire to do justice and mercy and to walk in humble communion with our Maker. If you’re doing that, you’re living in God’s will.

This past week, I started my job as a Pediatric nurse. It’s just so lovely and exciting and frightening I can hardly function. So I covet your prayers.

Later Days,

Jess

*”focusing on my art” aka “focusing on my art of Netflix watching”

**I said goodbye to my old girl on this past Friday- I’m so happy I made it a priority to stop and “smell the roses” with her these last few weeks. Time is a precious thing, folks. Make time for what has eternal significance.

On Being “Captivating”, or Why I No Longer Believe My Deepest Desire is to Be Beautiful

“For we are what he has made us…” Ephesians 2:10 NRSV

I was addicted to the book “Captivating”, by John and Stasi Eldredge for my high school and beginning college years. I believed this book had unlocked the deepest desire of my soul, had cracked the codes of womanhood, and was the foundation to becoming a godly woman.

Honestly, I don’t even know where my copy of Captivating is anymore.

I think this book is important for many reasons, and I do not want to discredit the hard, generous work the authors put into creating the book. It is important in many ways. However, as time has progressed, I have found myself disagreeing with the primary message of the book: mainly, that the “question” which lurks in the depths of women’s hearts is “Am I beautiful?”

The word “beauty” is fraught with plasticized and fictionalized ideals pushed onto women from both culture at large, and the sub-culture within the Christian church. The media tells us beauty looks one way and fits one way, and the church has done a pretty good job of prescribing a similar recipe for “godly” beauty (we just cloak it with bible verses to help women feel extra guilty when they don’t measure up). We strive and fall and hate ourselves for culturally and spiritually falling short. John and Stasi Eldredge argue that women present their question of beauty to their fathers, their significant others, and to (wait for it) Jesus. Jesus is the only one who can answer our question of “am I beautiful?” with a resounding yes. And from there we can go be perfect Christian women with flat stomachs who know to keep silent in church, because Proverbs 31 is a to-do list on how to achieve that “inner beauty” Christians seem to be so fanatical about (but please, Lord, make my husband have baby-blue eyes and abs I could wash my dirty socks on).

For years, I  felt less than beautiful.  When I wore my prom dress, I felt like an elaborate joke (mostly because damn , those things were designed to inflict pain and discomfort on the wearer. Also having the back of your knees sweat due to 20 layers of tulle between you and the outside world definitely does not contribute to feeling beautiful). I had braces from sixth grade until my sophomore year of high school, and my hair rarely cooperates. I have a silver slit of a scar running diagonally across my chin from surgery I had as a child. I laugh loud and hard and occasionally snort. I drool when I sleep, and when I focus too hard on one thing. I swear like a sailor.  And I prayed and prayed that God would make me “beautiful”, make me like my size four friends who knew how to get a boyfriend where as I seemed to have the gift of scaring boys away with my supernatural ability to burp louder than any man I’ve ever known. I prayed that God would answer my question: “Am I beautiful?” with a cosmic YES. But it never came.

 What came instead was the realization that  I do not need confirmation of the sociocultural ideal of my beauty by man or woman or supernatural deity to determine my significance as a human being. I am much more than my beauty.  I am more than a to-do list. I am poetry. I am not a metaphor for a godly woman. I am a beloved warrior. I have helped bring children into this world, and I have cleaned the vomit out of a meth addict’s hair. I have prayed with the dying, I have laughed with the living.

I have stopped asking “Am I beautiful?”. I’ve begun living my identity as beloved warrior, Jesus feminist. Disciple. I proclaim my love for Jesus loudly, and I let the words of Scripture read me as I declare them as the word of the Lord over my community.

Women are so much more than “captivating”. Women are so much more than beauty. Women, men, humanity- we are poetry. And I would argue that the deepest question lurking in the depth of my soul is not “am I beautiful?”. I believe the question that trails the heels of women and men globally is the question: “is there a place for me in this world?”. In Christ, the rhythms of our poetic souls find a narrative, a common story line to guide our wanderings. And the answer to this question is “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.” Amen.

Alright friends. That was a lot of theological ranting. But you know I never leave you without a video of some sort for your transition from the blogosphere to real life. So here’s a beautiful piece of spoken word by Katie Makkai called “Pretty” (like most spoken word I appreciate, it’s real and gritty and has some colorful words.)

Later Days,

Jess

Twenty-Two Things about Being Twenty-Two

I was going to try to write something deeply profound about adulthood, and this is what happened instead. It’s pretty much a list of random crap that is going on in my twenty-two year old brain. Feel free to read on for a dose of sarcasm, honesty, and a few pictures of my beautiful friends who are making this whole growing up thing a little more bearable.

Twenty-Two things about being Twenty-Two:

1. Nobody tells me what I should do anymore. I get to decide what I want to do (like eating cheesecake for breakfast)

2. I also get to deal with the consequences of doing whatever I want to do by myself (like eating cheesecake for breakfast)

3. I am no longer able to go to bed at 4 am. 11:30 is late enough for now.

4. In the words of T-Swift, I’m “…happy, free, confused, and lonely  at the same time”

5. Wearing glitter eyeliner and  hot pink lipstick to church dinners brings me great joy.

6. I think I want to be a midwife.

7. Maybe.

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8. I still feel like a sixteen year old girl trying to figure out where I want to go to college.

9. High heels are my favorite.

10. I will answer sixty percent of the questions you ask me with “I don’t know”

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11. Pens used to be my favorite writing instrument. Now black Ticonderoga pencils are my weapon of choice.

12. This is because the only constant force in my life is change, and pencils allow my writing to embody this reality.

13. It’s okay to drink a glass of wine, dance, then lay down on the floor with the dog because the floor is cool and my face is flushed.

14. Best friends are life’s greatest treasure.

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15. They will tell you not to buy the neon orange lipstick at 10pm.

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16. I only wanted it because I thought it would make me look like a manic pixie dream girl.

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17. I have a tattoo and I’m in love with it.

18. Because no matter how much my life changes in one day, I am still an Eshet Chayil, and that truth is inked in my skin.

19. I know Jesus loves me.

20. The manifestations of this love look different than I ever thought they would.

21. I am okay with that.

22. Because loving and being Loved is my soul’s greatest adventure.

Later Days,
Jess

Here’s a video of a dog that just makes me really happy. Just because.

The Other Woman

 I am a woman. A woman whose heart races over thick books and Greek definitions. I took upper division theology courses for fun. Yet, my passion for the thick tomes of Christianity is only allowed to be relegated to the work of teaching children or women. I have felt the weight of this young, when I was informed on why women were not permitted to serve as an elder, to preach from the podium. I could preach among play-dough and goldfish crackers all I wanted, but my voice becomes invalid in front of grown men.

I am a woman who tenses at the idea of having multiple biological children, of living in a nice house in a nice town and then retiring for Florida. I am a woman who drinks red wine and wears bright lipstick and likes jetting off on adventures with little more than a backpack and a journal. I was not made for the American dream.I am a kingdom-woman, a prophesier who proclaims the power of the equality found in the Spirit. I care for broken bodies, broken minds, broken spirits. And I sit in the church on Sunday, The Other.

I am the Other Woman who walked across that graduation stage at my Christian college with vibrant red lips and cat-eye glasses, without the ring by spring. I did not subscribe to the belief that the three most important letters that I could ever gain from my education were MRS . I am the Other Woman who refuses to believe that God created the perfect man for me and that Prince Charming will come one day and sweep me off my feet. I believe Love is a verb, is a Person, is something you commit to. I am The Other Woman who does not care to go to your monthly women’s ministry meeting where pink cupcakes will be served and wooden spoons will be painted with acrylic paints, and a message that God thinks I’m beautiful (which, apparently, is my soul’s deepest question according to a Very Popular Christian Book). I am the Other Woman, with hips that dare to curve themselves out of size four jeans, whose hips move mountains, thank you very much. I do not fit into the American culture’s ideal, nor the ideal of the suburban christian church. I do not worship at the shrine of the young nuclear family.

I am the Other Woman.

But I am not alone.

There are many of us, the Other Women. We paint our lips with truth, fill our heads with Truth that comes with Love. We are the Other Women, who did not receive a spirit of timidity at our baptism. We are the Other Women, calling all made in the likeness of God to come, dance in the light with us, throw of the bonds of culture and church culture and rejoice in the knowledge that you are deeply loved in your size four jeans, deeply loved with your oxblood lips and cat eyes, deeply loved with your thick volumes of theology and Holy Scriptures stained with ink and blood and tears, deeply loved with your spouse and those little souls you are raising so well.

You see, we are all Other women. We have all been othered at some point in our lives. Forgive me for the way I have sat on my high horse and held the title of Other Women above me, unwilling to share (it’s just a cheap plastic crown, after all*). Every single one of us has felt exlcuded, othered because of our gender or who we love or who we vote for or the color of our skin. We are united in our otherness. And that’s the exquisite beauty of the Body of Christ. We are a mosaic, different colors and textures and pieces making something beautiful, a bit of kingdom come.

So, my beautiful sisters, embrace your otherness. Throw off those chains that have silenced your words, and come dance in the Love with us, the Other Women.

Amen.

..

Linking up with the SheLoves synchroblog tonight- http://shelovesmagazine.com/2014/synchroblog/ . I encourage you all to look through the other bloggers who shared about being the other- maybe you’ll find another who’s been othered like you, too.

Later Days,

Jess

*if you got that reference, let’s be best friends forever.

On Being Gentle With Myself

“Do not hurry as you walk with grief; it does not help the journey. Walk slowly, pausing often:do not hurry as you walk with grief…Be not disturbed. Be gentle with the one who walks with grief. If it is you, be gentle with yourself. Swiftly forgive: walk slowly, pausing often. Take time; be gentle as you walk with grief” -Andy Raine

“Make us good students of these rhythms that we might not hurry the work of grief, but receive the gift of your presence in our time of need. Amen”- Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, October 8th

I’ve been “home” with my parents for over a week now, and it feels… strange. Like I’m just visiting on break, then in a few days I’ll drive home to San Diego again. But then I walk out to the garage to feed my dog and oh, look, there’s my entire apartment in boxes. My room felt like high school, so I went and bought a new yellow and gray quilt. Now it feels a little more like me.

During my psych nursing rotation (or, as I liked to call it “How not to be a terrible human being to other human beings who might be a little different than you”), we talked a lot about the concept of “self-care”. Basically, the idea is you can’t effectively care for others unless you are effectively caring for yourself. My professor encouraged us to find something we can do that refreshes us. My best friends and I decided sometimes the kindest thing we could do to care for ourselves was skipping chapel to get burritos and go watch the ocean for a while (or randomly barge into a friends bedroom and demand they make room for us to cuddle with them on their bed). Individually, I found this practice very difficult. My nature is to give and give and give to others. I am a golden retriever, I am loyal and steadfast to my people and nothing brings me more joy than bringing joy to my friends (and patients). I began learning in nursing school that this trait is not always a good thing. I would bleed myself dry for others, then be physically unable to love myself because there was nothing left to give.

I’m having to relearn this practice. I’ve been talking to my therapist I saw during my freshman and senior years of high school (fun fact: I have a tendency to crumble with major life changes. Not my friend), and my goodness, it’s been beautiful and difficult. She’s encouraged me to allow myself to grieve what I’ve lost in the process of moving cross-state. The community I’ve built, the roots I’d put down, the dreams I buried. It’s been difficult. I am excellent at deferring emotional crisis, pushing off the pain until I feel I am in a safe place to deal with it. At my last meeting, my therapist told me that I was in a safe place, that I could let go. So I did. But only briefly. Until I told her I felt ridiculous for feeling this way because I’m coming from such a place of privilege that I have now right to be this upset. That the dreams I held were dumb and useless because why was I crying over someone I never even held hands with?

My therapist stopped me: “Are you listening to yourself? Why are you being so harsh to yourself?”. And I remembered a conversation I had had with one of my dearest friends about the same things. During this conversation, I felt myself begin to tear up, but I immediately brushed off the emotion. “Never mind, it’s dumb.” My friend responded by saying “No, it’s not dumb”. My hamster wheel brain stopped spinning, and I swear my soul let out a deep sigh. You mean… it’s okay for me to feel angry and upset and sad? To take a moment and just let things be about what I’m experiencing in the moment? To do something to be kind to my soul, to walk through grief without hurrying to be done with the pain? Yes, it’s alright.

It’s alright for you, too, my friend. Do not hurry the work of grief; do not be ashamed of your anger and sadness. Take time to breathe through the pain, to welcome the new work of the Spirit in your soul. To learn to love all over again. Because love is always worth it. Amen.

I made a list of Ten Things I can do to Be Gentle to Myself:

1. Participation in daily Liturgy and prayer journaling. This is how I find myself most able to commune with God: ink and paper; tradition and sanctity.

2. Make a cup of tea. On my quilt buying adventure, I picked up some Downton Abbey: English Rose tea. It’s roses and raspberries and old-fashioned grace in a cup.

3. Go on a walk, take your time. The physical manifestation of taking my time through my grief. I do not rush these walks, I meander through the old-growth oaks and bramble patches that mark my homeland.

4. Take a bath. Water has always been my friend, and I’m always amazed by the literal and figurative renewing power water possesses.

5. Light a candle. Frostbeard (find them here on Etsy https://www.etsy.com/shop/Frostbeard?ref=l2-shopheader-name) makes book-scented candles. My current favorite is “Old Books”.

6. Sleep when you’re tired, eat when you’re hungry. Revolutionary, I know, but sometimes I forget to take care of my basic human needs when I’m grieving.

7. Cry if you need to. Don’t choke tears down, let them flow freely.

8. Read a good book. Sometimes I need to be a part of someone else’s story for a while.

9. Take a drive; get a little lost. I always find a little gem of a place when I get lost.

10. Play with the dog. Pet therapy. Nothing better.

Thanks for reading, friends. I am indebted to you all.

Later Days,

Jess

On Writing a Love Letter to My Body

This post is in response to Sarah Bessey’s post, “Dear Body” (http://sarahbessey.com/dear-body/), and Megan Gahan’s post, “A Love Letter to my Body”  (http://shelovesmagazine.com/2012/a-love-letter-to-my-body/). Writing this was incredibly cathartic to me, as I have live many years raging against this vessel that carries my soul. I ask that if you continue to read this, that you would take a moment to thank your own body for the grace it has shown you over the years.

“She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong…strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come” Proverbs 31:17,25 ESV

Dearest Body of Mine,

This has been a long time coming, and I’m sorry it’s taken me twenty one years to say these things about you.

First, thank you. Thank you for the beautifully intricate ways you function each day; thank you for respiration and ventilation and movement and laughter. Thank you platelets for coming to stop all my erythrocytes from fleeing my veins after I slice our leg open in the shower again.

Feet, I have used you and abused you. You never held the delicate high arch so prized by my fellow ballerinas. But you are strong. Thank you for letting me live my life like a Hobbit; always barefoot no matter what the weather because you can withstand practically anything. I used to shove you into paste and satin shoes and balance my entire body weight on our big toes, after all. It is true, then: “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news”

Thighs, thank you for carrying me through this life on two solid pillars of truth. You and I have never wanted anyone’s praise. Never slender or fashionable, always making buying pants a four hour ordeal (you look magnificent in skirts and dresses, by the way). Thank you, strong thighs, for carrying me through countless 12 hour shifts on my feet, for kicking strong against the ocean’s current as I laugh in the sea.

Stomach, you and I haven’t always been friends. I’ve hated you for most of my life. But that night I rested that baby girl on my lap and sang the doxology to her over and over and over as her body detoxed from methadone, and she wrapped herself around the soft parts of you? That’s when I knew that I loved you, because you are gentle and kind to those I love most in this world.

Chest, thank you for declaring my womanhood, for creating space for laughter and bonding among friends as we learn we all share the same cup size. Thank you for catching popcorn at the movies and for providing me a counter balance point when I stand on my tiptoes. Thank you for the promise of life.

Arms. Oh, the battles we’ve fought. The scars you have to remember. You declare your presence loudly from tank tops: “Here we are!”. You are strong. I knew I loved you when I one-handedly cradled that baby with the c-collar into you, while your sister pushed IV pole, and we rocked and danced and shushed until sleep let me set down that precious one again. You can turn and lift the infirm to assist them in finding comfort. You’ve broken the falls of a few patients as well. Thank you for the lifesaving work you do.

Hands, you never belonged to music. We tried, but we like creating music with our whole self much better. Thank you for the skill you possess. The ability to thread IV catheter into delicate vein, the power to compress a bag to ventilate those who cannot breathe for themselves. Thank you for the tireless work you do.

Face, you are constellations of freckles and laugh lines. You bloom in the sun, and we can always tell which cinnamon colored spots are new to us. You, too, hold an important scar: our first surgery, the one you woke up from screaming, the one you cried over when the harsh black sutures replaced the tea colored stain that held the warning of future disease. You are silver-white now, and I catch your reflection sometimes and smile, because you are the first thing that taught me how to be brave.

Mouth, thank you for speaking truth and love and the occasional inappropriate joke. Thank you for laughing and chewing food and bending into graceful arcs to show our pleasure with the world.

Eyes, you are my father’s. Laurel green, you’ve always been the jewels of my temple. Thank you for being brave enough to watch the hard things, the injustices of the world. You’ve been the gateways of change.

Twenty one years, you’ve been so good to me. And it’s taken me this long to say it: I love you. Thank you for the beauty you create, the love you express, the strength you possess. You’re incredible.

Love,

Jessica

It’s taken me 21 years to love this temple I live in. And it’s been a hard battle, but it’s been my battle.  Some days it’s not over yet. But I’m learning, and I will keep on loving. Amen.

Later Days,

Jess

As always, a few videos for your consideration. Please be aware the language, though honest and beautiful and brilliant, is not “clean” (the best things rarely are AMEN?AMEN!), and speaks painfully honest about real issues women face. These two spoken word pieces have spoken deeply into my life, and I hope you enjoy them!

This is my current favorite spoken word piece. I love the truth she speaks about her body!

Also, Rachel Wiley is brilliant, and “10 Honest Thoughts on Being Loved By a Skinny Boy”  is my favorite work of hers (the line “I am not a novelty” makes me want it tattooed on my thighs somewhere)

On Learning to be Brave

I’m living in a season of strange transition and murky water. As a girl who always (or mostly always) has a plan, this is completely unnerving. I’m still swaying from the roller coaster of graduation and pinning and passing the NCLEX and my roommate moving. All of the sudden, I feel like adulthood has been shoved in my face and I’m expected to somehow cope with it when I can’t even decide what to eat for dinner tonight.

The life I had planned for after I graduated is not here. I’m not engaged (I was totally convinced I was going to find/marry my future husband in college), I’m not living in an adorable cottage on the beach, and I’m not a Pediatric Nurse. Instead, I have made it 21 years dateless, live in a ridiculously hot (as in temperature wise, not fabulous-wise) one bedroom apartment that has a spider infestation, and I’m still a CNA (even though technically I’m an RN). And I’ve never felt more alone in this season. I’m hurting. Bad. Because the life I thought was guaranteed is definitely not happening right now. Or anytime soon for that matter.

I’ve worked hard at my job with the hopes of gaining an RN position after graduation. Everyone told me I was pretty much guaranteed in on my current floor. But, I got a call from HR during finals week that said “it’s a no”. I’ve done a really good job of pushing the weight of rejection aside these past few months because there’s been other more important things to worry about besides my quarter-life crisis. As New Grad programs start and I’m watching my amazing, beautiful friends do amazing, beautiful things (which I am so, so proud of them for doing), I feel stuck on the sidelines, waving as they walk off into their sunsets of realized dreams. I hurt every time I’m at work because I know I could love my patients so well as their nurse. I’m doing my best to love them as a CNA, but I’ve cried and bled to be an RN to serve the little ones I feel so called to love. I hurt because I feel angry and frustrated and sad all at once.

Some of that is good. I’m learning to embrace being single (mostly wearing lots of bright lipstick and laughing at the days to come). I’ve learned methods to kill the invading spiders in my apartment (I let the little ones live, but I use la chancla* on the big ones). I’ve learned I can survive heartbreak. And, I’ve learned I’m not alone. I have friends here that love me well and drive me to the beach when all I want to do is sleep and watch Netflix. I have parents that have supported me every part of this difficult journey, even when I’ve cried out of anger or yelled at my Mom on the phone. I have a church that reads scripture and practices eucharist and gives me a firm foundation when I can hardly keep my footing on anything else.

Annie Downs writes in Let’s All Be Brave “You are going to survive this, friend. God has not forgotten you. Your life and desires are important to God”. This is all my hope is built on. I know I was created for a purpose. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am called to be a nurse, and I know that my heart is in pediatrics (because I’m a preoperational child. Piaget is my homeboy). To have someone tell me through print (which is really the best way my book-loving soul processes things) that I have not been forgotten, that my desire to serve little ones has not been forgotten, was enough to bring me to tears. Tears of joy and relief and hope. Because I know I’m going to be alright.

Amen?

Amen.

So the takeaway points are 1. Go buy Let’s All be Brave because it’s beautiful 2. I’m a little sad right now 3. But a lot hopeful 4. I’m going to be okay.

Thanks for reading, friends.

Later Days,

Jess

*La Chancla is the rod of discipline and the sword of destruction. Use with caution (see below)