11/01 Direct Link
I am starting to get really nervous. I am waiting, along with many Canadians, expectantly, anxiously: only three more sleeps until we know the outcome of the American election. We have had our own recent disappointment, but the difference is that we didnít want Harper to win, but many didnít feel that there were any other options. The differences in the American election are the high stakes, and the high drama. The people I am worrying along with know exactly who they want in the Whitehouse, but are afraid that many Americans are not ready for that much drama yet.
11/02 Direct Link
At our recent Federal election there was the worst turnout in history. Only 58% of eligible voters exercised their right. I know the choices were depressing, but it is still so important to make a choice; apathy doesnít make any particular statement.
Apparently Starbucks is offering a free coffee to anyone who makes the effort to go out and vote on Nov.4th. Is this what weíve come to? We need people to bribe us into voting? The scary thing is I know people who would not bother to vote, but could be convinced by the prospect of a free coffee.
11/03 Direct Link
I am writing a short story right now. Well, longer than I have been doing. I have been working on flash fiction for the last few months, not because I am particularly good at it, but I thought it would help with my wordiness. It has helped, I think, but it is a lot harder than I thought. It is really an exercise in getting at the essence of things. When you only have 5 words to describe a character, you have to write a lot of garbage until you expose that gem. Itís a cross between prose and poetry.
11/04 Direct Link
I am so nervous about the election today: hopeful and skeptical. I remember the Bush/Gore fight, and how I had to stop watching. I wasnít a huge Gore fan, but I have always been a Democrat (the Canadian variety), and I was terrified of Bush with his insincere, shifty gaze. I felt that there was something quite unnerving about him, but I also felt that there were much scarier people lurking in his shadow. I remember going into my local coffee shop the next morning and the mood was unusually subdued. We all had a little fear in our hearts.
11/05 Direct Link
Itís hard to write today, I am so overwhelmed. I had a strong gut feeling that Obama was going to win, but my head just didnít believe that it was going to happen. I didnít think America was ready. I cried during his speech, watching the tearful faces in the audience - hundreds of thousands of them. Faces that showed a naked, slightly nervous, hopefulness, and relief to hear somebody speak like a human being, and not like a caricature. I saw the hope in those faces, but like in my own, a fear of being naÔve enough to believe.
11/06 Direct Link
I am trying to be less cranky, but I donít seem to be doing very well. I am getting angrier and less tolerant of people, which makes me not want to be around people much. Less and less as a matter of fact, with fewer and fewer people. I used to think I was very different from the rest of my family, but I fear I am becoming more like them each day. Cynical, judgemental, angry and argumentative. I thought I wanted to change so much from the shy, non-confrontational person I was, but now I am not so sure.
11/07 Direct Link
Sometimes the people we have worked with for a long time die. There was a lady we worked with a few months ago, that I had a bad feeling about from the beginning. But we had to push her, because our job is to get everybody up, ďmobilizingĒ is the term everybody uses; which makes me think of war-ďmobilize the troopsĒ! It is kind of like a battle. People feel like they have been taken prisoner, and we are there to torture them. This poor lady was so sick, we hated going to her room and making her get up...
11/08 Direct Link
We are not cruel people.
The worst thing you can do after open heart surgery is stay in bed all day. People understand this when they go for pre-admission teaching. But knowing it and actually doing it when you feel like every bone in your body has been broken, and somebody has sucked all the oxygen out of the air is another story.
Anyway, back to this poor lady. We would have the same conversation with her every day. Her lungs were getting worse, her body was filling up with fluid. To get rid of it, she had to move...
11/09 Direct Link
She would beg, we would cajole. She would eventually come with us, and struggle to walk a few metres down the hall. Donít get me wrong, this was all done with as much humour as we could muster, and she would laugh with us. We even sang Neil Diamond to her once, while she was walking. It was so bad that she started to laugh, ran out of breath and had to sit down.

She didnít get any better. Actually she seemed to be getting worse. The medical folks were going crazy because they couldnít figure out what was wrongÖ
11/10 Direct Link
When this happens, much discussion takes place, particularly of the ďchicken or the eggĒ variety. Was she having trouble doing the simplest of things because she had become so debilitated from not doing anything? Or had she become so debilitated because she was so sick that she had trouble doing the simplest of things? My colleague and I voted for the latter. We felt that, despite the first few days when she had refused, she had been trying her best to get up and walk, knowing that was the way she would be able to get home. Opinions were divided.
11/11 Direct Link
This is usually the time that the surgeon decides to show up. His first question (and I say Ďheí because I have only ever encountered male cardiac surgeons) when a patient has been around for longer than ďexpectedĒ is, ďwhy hasnít Mrs. or Mr. X gone home?Ē. Then they make some comment after seeing the patient for a few seconds, that we have to push this person more. Or they may actually tell the patient that they are not doing enough, that they have to get up and walk more to be able to go home. And then theyíre gone.
11/12 Direct Link
The aftermath consists of a whirlwind of heated arguments. Between those whose beliefs stand firmly in the realm of ďscienceĒ, who believe that because we canít find anything on any of the thousands of tests we have done, everything she is feeling is in her imagination, and those who know that their profession dictates they should believe only what science can explain, but still have the niggling human doubts that even though they canít find anything wrong, something isnít right with this woman. And in the middle of all this is her and her family not knowing what to believe.
11/13 Direct Link
All of this happened on a Friday, and I went home for the weekend feeling very unsettled.

I had disturbing dreams over the weekend, dreams that left an oppressive feeling upon waking, or a sense of being out of control. I would wake up and she would come into my mind, and I felt that something was happening to her and I would start to shake. Thatís when I started to think that I was going crazy. It wasnít a new feeling. Iíve felt it many other times, in many other situations. But thatís a story for some other timeÖ
11/14 Direct Link
When I got to work on Monday, I had to walk by her room to get to my office. I was dreading what I might find out. Walking by, I could tell right away that there was a new occupant. I managed to make it to my office, but I was having trouble breathing, and had to sit down because I was feeling dizzy. I needed to know what had happened to her, but at the same time I didnít really want to know. I printed out my patient list for the day to see if her name showed up.
11/15 Direct Link
She was still with us, but she was in ICU. She had gone into respiratory distress over the weekend, and her heart was failing. I donít work in ICU, so I tried to concentrate on other work, on the other patients. That was always something that I did well. I could turn off my mind, shut out my own life, and concentrate on the patient that I was working with at the time. But I couldnít do it that day. My mind kept drifting off, and I started to feel like I was in a dream, everything seemed so surreal.
11/16 Direct Link
Finally, I decided I had to see her. I donít know what was pushing me. I think I felt guilty. I wanted to apologize to her and her family. I didnít want her family to feel that we didnít care. In ICU she was barely conscious, and hooked up to a tube for every possible bodily function. Her daughter came to talk to me, and I tried to reassure her that I had seen people come back from worse states. And then I started to cry. I have shed tears with patients and their families before, but this was different.
11/17 Direct Link
I will never forget that picture. Me, the professional, in my scrubs peering through the glass and my own tears at a woman I barely knew, and her daughter with her arm around me trying to convince me that it would be O.K. All I could manage was to apologize for crying, and we laughed at the strangeness of it. And then I went back to work.

She didnít live out the day. The Doctors never really did find out what had happened, and no amount of medical intervention, even drugs that force her heart to beat, could save her.
11/18 Direct Link
I am not writing on my laptop, I am using my palm pilot and keyboard in the back of my Vanagon while riding the ferry to Victoria to see my Mom. It will be a test because I have not used this before. I am terrified it will run out of battery power right in the middle of an interesting moment and then I would lose everything. I am just trying to see what kind of battery time I have, so I can figure out how much time I have to write. It's either that or buy a car charger...
11/19 Direct Link
So, I can't remember exactly where I left off. I think I had come to the sad end of one person's story from work. It was not too long after, while reading a newspaper article, that I discovered I could possibly be suffering from something called "compassion fatigue". Yes, that is actually a term that is used to describe unpleasant feelings that can be experienced by health care workers and people who take care of their sick parents or spouse. For me, I didn't know whether it was that, or just a "can't fucking take this anymore" nervous breakdown.
11/20 Direct Link
Perhaps it was closer to a spiritual crisis. Whatever it was, it had to be attended to. Right at that time two amazing things happened: I joined a Buddhist meditation group and I was given the opportunity, along with about 10,000 other employees, to win free tuition to take an online course called "Spirituality: Healing the Soul of the Caregiver". I didn't really know if this was what I was looking for, I was worried there would be too much of a Catholic focus, but I put my name in and figured if it was meant to happen, it would.
11/21 Direct Link
The Buddhist meditation was teaching me to take time to sit with myself, either chanting, just watching my breath, or concentrating on an object. And to let go of all attachment to the millions of thoughts and emotions that passed through my mind for the time that I sat. It was teaching me to focus inside instead of outside. To centre myself in my own being, instead of being pulled in every direction and through every emotion by the people I encounter each day. I began to feel inwardly calm again, less like I was on the verge of imploding
11/22 Direct Link
A few weeks after applying for the Spirituality course, I received an email congratulating me on winning a spot in the online course. At this time, I was still quite unsure if it was the right thing to do. Although I work for a Catholic health care group, I still have a very uneasy relationship with Catholicism. I grew up believing that God was judgemental and cruel, and I had left the church in disgust when I was 16. I was not sure I was ready to enter into this relationship with people who were probably Catholic, most definitely Christian.
11/23 Direct Link
I went to see my counselor today, I say "my" as if we have a long-standing relationship, but I really have only seen her a few times, and that was almost a year ago. At that time I was mainly going to see her about my inability to deal with being treated like a plebe at work, and to talk through possibilities for a change in career. Lately I have been feeling the need to sort out a few things that have been slowly bubbling up to the surface, and this session certainly proved that I am gaining more awareness.
11/24 Direct Link
I am thinking that I really need to stop reading so much about writing, and just doing it. I always think that I have to learn more and more before I actually write. I remember when I was a teenager and wrote a lot, I didn't spend a lot of thought on 'how to do it', I just did it. So it didn't matter whether it was good or not. Now I am stymied by all the things that I think I don't understand, or that I might be doing wrong. So how do I expect to even start anything?
11/25 Direct Link
The only way I am going to become a better writer is by doing it. That means writing a daily plateful of shit that may, when sifted through, expose a gem I swallowed at some point without noticing. But the only way I am going to have anything to discover is to ďlet goĒ of all the crap and debris that bounces around in my brain on a daily basis, bruising my psyche and leaving no room for anything else. It drives me close to crazy some days, like if I donít let it out fast, I will go insane.
11/26 Direct Link
But I think I have been afraid that if I let it out, then some scary stuff might be revealed in the process. Like I think the crap is bruising and violent, but it is actually a buffer for the stuff that could really cause suffering. In my imagination perhaps even insanity or death. I think that is what the dark pit is that I am so afraid to dive into. I think it lurks inside, and is hidden by all the meaningless shit, and if the meaningless shit is released, the dark pitís powers of destruction will be unleashed.
11/27 Direct Link
But I think I have been afraid that if I let it out, then some scary stuff might be revealed in the process. Like I think the crap is bruising and violent, but it is actually a buffer for the stuff that could really cause suffering. In my imagination perhaps even insanity or death. I think that is what the dark pit is that I am so afraid to dive into. I think it lurks inside, and is hidden by all the meaningless shit, and if the meaningless shit is released, the dark pitís powers of destruction will be unleashed.
11/28 Direct Link
Each chapter presented a different religious or spiritual view on connecting to and taking care of one's spirit in order to live a life that is not filled with denial. They talked about how we can so easily become lost to ourselves as we try to navigate our lives and relationships, and that sometimes in our caring for others, we are cutting off and ignoring our connection to ourselves. It was like somebody had stuck a probe in my brain and left it there gently prodding the emotional centre of my brain because I started crying and I couldn't stop
11/29 Direct Link
It was an online course, so all communication was through a forum. It provided for some interesting conversations as we were to write our thoughts on the readings as well as any personal reactions. Again, I was nervous of voicing my sometimes anti-religious opinions, but I thought what the hell-this is supposed to be about being honestÖI developed a new respect for some of the people that I had conversations with, Nuns, Chaplains, etc, who were very open about their own experiences and were quite non-judgemental about the experiences of others. Many of them were very thoughtful and articulate people.
11/30 Direct Link
Shit! I was writing something else for this entry, but then I looked over the last few entries and discovered I had pasted the same entry two days in a row! I got behind and tried to catch up when I was too tired, I guess. I donít know what to do about it, I canít un-submit!!! I am so disorganized. I always seem to be trying to catch up with myself. I donít know what December is going to be like. Itís hard to get away from all the madness to find a quiet moment to do some writing.