Finding Meaning in your Career

Last week, had you asked me, I would have told you I was a “paper pusher” for a Hospital (really, I’m the Coordinator for Medicine). Not glamorous, but well-paid with full benefits and pension, and flexible. I mostly like my team, and I really enjoy working in health care and with my group of Doctors. Over all – a pretty good gig…. BUT I have to be honest…I have always dreamed of working for a non-profit, and doing something to really change people’s lives….directly help people….improve the world….you know, typical Miss Universe wish type things.

At church this week, our Pastor challenged us to find meaning in our current careers…to make them more than “just a job” or “just a way to pay bills”. Whether we’re cashiers, or nurses, or coordinators, or secretaries, or physiotherapists….find a way to make what we do meaningful and contribute to the greater good.

So I started thinking about it… how to find meaning in a job that is 99% behind the scenes and not directly helpful to society as a whole? One where most people don’t even know I exist, because I am a background worker? One that operates from a remote office and has almost zero contact with the public (except when I’m wayfinding!).

But then it dawned on me. I may not be saving lives every day, but the people I directly support do. They’re Doctors, caring for mostly very sick patients. And my role is the role that coordinates, arranges, and provides support to them. Without my role, they don’t know who to see or when to see them. They don’t know when to work, and they won’t get paid. They do not have funding, or stats, or meetings, or a budget. They do not have stethoscopes, or scrubs, or schedules, or patient lists. I do all of those things for them…so without me, or my role, they would not know which patients to see, let alone when to show up and what is wrong with them.

So … maybe I am not saving lives or directly improving the world…but what I do most certainly contributes to the well being of literally hundreds of patients, and I make the lives of the people saving those patients lives a hell of a lot easier (and freeing them up so they can save lives)….that has to count for something, doesn’t it?


What do you do? Do you feel like your job has meaning? Do you need to have a job with meaning?

 

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Are you a Feminist?

I’ve learned that our male marriage counselor, also happens to be a feminist. As a matter of fact, I think he is more pro-woman than I, a woman, am.

And it’s made me consider…shouldn’t I be more of a feminist?

I mean…I’m a woman. A woman who has experienced cruelty, abuse and prejudice at the hands of men more than once. Given that…shouldn’t I be fiercely feminist? After all, I have been oppressed….for a good portion of my life. That, alone, should make me stand up and scream that I am a woman and will not longer tolerate oppression, abuse, harassment.

But for some reason it doesn’t… instead, I quietly observe the feminist movement – sharing posts, attending events, offering a hand up where I can to those who need it. And I live by example: my time as an oppressed female at the mercy of men is long gone. I have a well-paid, and well-respected career. I own my own car and go where I want, when I want. I have a husband who is happy to have an equal partner, and expects no more from me than I from him. I can hold my own in a political conversation and I always, always vote. I have helped more than a couple of my friends (and even my sisters) become more independent and/or escape a bad relationship. I also share my life with a lot of young girls and I like to think that living my life independently while still having a good marriage, a good career, etc… helps them to see that they can have or be anything they want to be – too. That no one else should dictate what they can and should accomplish.

Does that make me a feminist? I don’t know. I don’t know that I will ever be the kind of woman to publicly share my #metoo story, or stand in front of others and wind up a crowd. But I am still here, a survivor of the worst kind of male oppression, and I am thriving in an independent and free life that I hope is inspiring someone. I take every chance I get to quietly share the importance of being independent with all of the children in my life, especially little girls. And I always, always, help where I can whenever it is needed.

Maybe that’s not the kind of feminism you see on TV or read about in articles, but I like to think I am helping the movement in my own quiet, reserved way. So I will keep on, keeping on and the leave the voice raising to the voice raisers – because they’re doing a fabulous job of being heard right now.

Church

For some time I have been searching for a church. I wanted one that fit right, that felt like home, one that I connected with. I tried a couple places…but didn’t find they felt right.

I have never doubted God’s love and presence, but after some pretty crummy experiences with church in my childhood…I was kind of avoiding organized religion. When the whole thing went down with Mr. Big, I decided it was definitely time to find a church.

Ironically, our marriage counselor operates out of a church. He isn’t a pastor and doesn’t do religious counselling – his office is just there and he is a member of that congregation. But the more I entered the church for our counselling, and the more I perused the website for that church, the more I started to think this was something I might like. It just felt like I belonged there, and the statements of the church are completely in line with my personal beliefs.

So this past Sunday I went…it took forever to get through the doors (seriously, attending a new church all alone where you know no one = takes every ounce of courage!)…but I did! It was big for me, but I was SO GLAD I went. There is a live band that plays about 30 minutes of amazing music first, and then a 1 hour sermon. The Pastor is a lovely, lovely, kind man who I really like and the congregation is a huge mishmash of all kinds of people in all different places in their life. For real…there were all kinds of people there (including one guy who sat on the floor behind me, barefoot, and meditated the entire time), a couple of homeless people who come for the free coffee and muffins … but they stay for the service so hopefully they are getting something from it.

I was just…really impressed. The congregation seemed 100% open minded and loving of all the people there, which is really what I believe Christianity is about anyway. There was NONE of the judging or “thou shalt not” I remember from my childhood church experience. I think I am in love with this church – and I really hope it continues to be as open minded and loving as it sure seems to be!

Do you go to church? Do you find it difficult to find one where you feel like you belong?

Book Review Catchup

I’m majorly behind on my book reviews…so here they are: short and sweet.

Peach Blossom Pavilion – Mingmei Yip

This book is of a similar theme to some of my favourites – Memoirs of a Geisha, Pearl, etc. It’s the tragic yet powerful story of a child in China who finds her fate well out of her control, and rises to the challenge heroically to make something worthwhile out of something horrible. It was very good, and I definitely recommend.

Goodbye and Amen – by Beth Gutcheon

I like other books by this author…but this one was just – difficult to read. I couldn’t get into it, I found the way it was written was challenging and not engrossing. Overall a mediocre book, and I don’t recommend.

Shannon – Frank Delaney

This was quite a book. Initially, I couldn’t get into it – but over time I really did. It awakened in me a deep interest in Ireland (one of my bucket list places to visit!) and over all is a good read. I picked up for $3 from Dollar.ama…so it’s definitely worth that!

The Haunting of Maddy Clare – Simone St. James

This was a strange book…a story of 1920s ghost hunters trying to free a town from the grips of a powerful spirit haunting it. It was definitely interesting and page turning….but it was weird and kind of depressing.

The Piano Teacher – Janice Y.K. Lee

Again, an Asian love story (I so love books set in Asia!). This one was beautiful, but tragic, and the ending left me very frustrated and wanting more.

The Sparrow Sisters – Ellen Herrick

Ah, this book. It was like a fairy tale of modern times, but also a bit of a thriller/suspense and thoroughly addicting. Definitely recommend! (Also: this is my 150th book I’ve reviewed on this blog!! Crazy, right?? 150 books!)

What are you reading?? Any recommendations?

Knife….for #2

Have you guys seen this circulating FB???

I’m dying to know your thoughts. I had NO IDEA something like this existed, and more importantly: that there was a need for something like this to exist!

It gave me more than a few giggles as I read through it this AM…but as I read through the comments and saw that more people had them … I began to wonder if I was the odd one out. So I shared with my coworkers who also didn’t know this existed….so I’m starting to think either it’s a) a big joke or b) something that doesn’t affect the people I know!

Bizarre, hilarious and gross. Go ahead, have a read! 🙂

#Microblogmondays – Inflatable Belts

I work in healthcare…and one of the biggest issues we see is frequent falls of aging/delirious patients. There are a million and one resources to help prevent falls without actually restraining patients, but it’s just not something that we seem to be able to eliminate. These fragile patients take a fairly basic fall, but due to their age, osteoporosis, etc. – they tend to shatter. Broken hips, broken arms, broken pelvis – etc. One of the committees I sit on is dedicated to finding ways to lessen the damage falls do (because patients will always continue to fall)….recently, an interesting topic has come up:

Inflatable belts. Yep…inflatable pads on either hip, belted together, to protect the hips. Essentially, airbags for hips.

Crazy, right? I think it’s a genius idea! Yes – they are not fashionable but neither is a broken/dislocated hip. The patients who would get the most benefit from this are not worried about fashion anyway – they are upper end seniors with other medical conditions far less glamorous than a couple air bags belted to their waist. Plus, the longer their bones and joints remain undamaged – the faster they can get home, which is what we all really want anyway.

What do you think? Anyone you know who could use them?

Marriage Ain’t Easy

Hi Friends,

I feel a little guilty for telling you about what was happening with my marriage, and then telling you I didn’t want to talk about it anymore.

The reality is: it’s just hard and I was afraid of judgement…so I decided that while everything was so raw I needed to keep it quietly to myself.

BUT… I do want to share with you…because you supported me even when I was sharing my worst, and because you continue to come back even though I’ve stopped talking about it, and it because it really is therapeutic.

So here’s where we are at:

Marriage counselling is wonderful…truly life changing. Our counselor, PL, is amazing and wise and funny and exactly what we need as we navigate this very tricky path.

Our first few sessions with him were about the dirty details. We went through the events, as they unfolded, and how we felt. We went through our histories and our childhoods. We expressed all of our negative emotions and shared how it made us feel. These sessions were so, so hard and so, so emotional (I shed A LOT of tears). He asked us difficult questions, and we gave difficult answers. It was the most challenging time…but also the most relieving: everything was finally out in the open and there were no more secrets. At the end of each appointment he gave us a simple task (go on one date and only talk about your favourite things, go see a movie together and dress up for it, go for a walk in the woods, etc).

Then he sat us down and we had the most difficult conversation of all. He explained that our marriage could not go back to the way it was, it was forever changed and if we wanted to go forward together we would need to build something new together, fall back in love, and start over. He made it so clear that we both had a choice to make – to stay or go, and we it was time to make that choice. This was the most emotional conversation, but we both whole heartedly agreed that we wanted to start over and move forward, together: married.

And so we are working on that. Carefully and intentionally rebuilding our marriage, and our life, and falling in love with each other all over again. PL is exactly right – we are different people now…and our relationship and our marriage is different now. The biggest challenge, for me, was letting go of what was, and past hurts, and moving forward. Through that, though, we’ve learned to speak our minds – honestly and openly, always. Even if it might anger the other. We’ve learned more about each other in the last 2 months than we had in the past 8 years. Open communication has been the biggest and best change we’ve made so far…and comes with just one rule: we are never, ever mean. We say what is on our minds, but only if it’s truthful and not hurtful. Through being kind to each other, I find being supportive, respectful and loving just comes naturally….and those are all the things I want my marriage to be.

I don’t want to paint a rosy picture that isn’t truthful: everything above is true, but it is also incredibly hard, emotional, messy and I am still sometimes so angry. I am working very hard at forgiveness…but it is not coming easily. All of the changes we have made did not happen overnight or easily, and came with immense effort on both of our parts. (Our lack of children has actually been a huge blessing right now, because it enables us to dedicate all of our time to this.) But we have learned just how strong we are, just how capable we are, and just how much we love each other – and those lessons are invaluable. I have learned so much about myself, about Mr. Big, and about us as a couple over the last few months and I look forward to the future so much now. We truly feel like we are on the right path, and that things are looking up.

In all this, what’s shocked me the most is how difficult marriage really is. We watch movies and shows, and it seems like marriage should just be effortless – something that just works or it doesn’t. But that’s not true at all, marriage requires a huge amount of effort – every single day for your entire life. You will always have to work to have a good marriage, but if the marriage is good then it will always be worth it.

Building Mastery

Back when I was in University, in one of my Psych. classes we talked a lot about the different types of therapy (CBT, DBT, etc).

One of the things that stuck out in my mind from DBT was “Building Mastery” – which is, essentially, when you have something really hard to do that you don’t want to do and you do it anyway.

It could be something as simple as riding city transit when you have agoraphobia, or speaking in front of a room full of strangers when public speaking makes you want to hurl. At the end of said experience, you feel a little bit better, a little bit stronger, a bit of pride in yourself for doing it even though you were terrified – that is the essence of building mastery.

This concept has stuck with me through the years because it is one I experience regularly as a person with OCD. Every time I resist the urge to wash my hands, which is very difficult for me, and touch the railing anyway – that is building mastery (albeit on a small scale). It’s chipping away a bit of the old self, encrusted in fear and anxiety, and revealing the shiny, strong, newness underneath.

Yesterday I did something so incredibly difficult for myself, that I spent the last two weeks *literally* sick as I dreaded it. I knew I needed to do it, I wanted to do it, but I was absolutely terrified to do it.  I had an appointment with someone who absolutely, completely, terrified me to address something I have ignored for 20 years. I stood outside the door the building for more than 20 minutes, fighting with myself on whether I was actually going to go in or turn and run, praying for strength, and shaking like a leaf. It was the hardest thing I have done in a long, long time (perhaps ever). Twice in the meeting I resisted the urge to flee…but as I used every ounce of my strength to remain, and hash out what needed to be hashed out. As the appointment continued, I felt myself slowly open up and began to settle. In that 45 minutes I grew as a person…and I left there SO thankful that I went, and am still so glad I stuck it out. It was so, so worth it…and will lead to so many beautiful, wonderful things.

But you guys, getting there was almost impossible. But I did it, and I am SO glad and SO proud of myself for doing it. That’s what building mastery is…getting a little bit closer to the person you were meant to be, through doing the things that challenge you most.

Have you ever heard of building mastery? Do you have anything like this in your life that needs to be done, but you’ve avoided because of fear or denial?

Week Roundup

I like the idea of doing a weekly roundup….so here is my first of (hopefully) a new tradition.

  1. Can I say, first of all, how happy I am that it’s Friday?? This is my first week back at work after taking 10 days off for the holidays (and it was only a 4 day week) and I am DYING for some off time. Why can’t being a stay-at-home dog mom be a thing???
  2. This week I finished my copy of Womancode by Alissa Vitti and am enjoying implementing a lot of her suggestions into my life. The hardest one, for me, is eating in the time frames she recommends – because I start my day super early, it has me eating lunch at 10 AM … so I made a minor adjustment and added a protein rich snack (chia apple sauce) at 8:30 AM so I could have lunch at 11:30 with my peers. But I absolutely get that leveling out my blood sugar is going to be huge in settling my hormones and am eager to try it all.
  3. My OCD is a little insane these days, but I am working on getting back to that good place.
  4. The Pups are LOVING this super snowy weather we’ve been having (and they don’t seem to mind that it’s -36 outside!). I’m enjoying walking them every day after work – I have been doing this ever since early December and am finding that it is an excellent way to end a chaotic work day.
  5. My entire body is so dry I swear it crunches when I walk. I discovered shea oil at a local shop and have been applying it directly to my skin at night. The catch is, it needs a while to absorb … but when it does, it is SO NICE and soft.

Over all, I would say it was a good week. Stressful and long, but still good. Everyone I love is well, I have a good job and a roof over my head, food in my belly, and an entire herd of furries that greet me like it’s been 10 years every time I get home (even if I was only gone for 3 minutes). So definitely, a good week.

How about you? How was your week?

OCD – The Nitty Gritty

I’m sure I’ve mentioned on here that I have OCD…but when I try and go back to find those posts, I’ll be damned if I can. So in case this is news to you: I have OCD.

Not the kind of OCD that people claim to have when they like their kitchen a certain way, or their books lined up in specific order, or their beds made just so. That kind of OCD is actually just a quirk, or a fad, and is really a disservice to the actual illness which is significantly more severe than any of those things.

The kind of OCD I have is the kind that has me so debilitated in repetitive movements that I repeat them for hours on end just to alleviate the immense anxiety I feel if I don’t. The kind that has my hands raw and bleeding from washing, and still they are not clean enough. The kind that has me awake for hours at night praying in circles because I am worried I did not pray the right way the first time and God will misunderstand and something horrible will happen to the people I love. The kind that has me doing something for EXACTLY the right amount of time or times, or else something horrible will happen. The kind that comes with anxiety so debilitating, you absolutely must engage in the compulsion or your feel like you will legitimately explode or something terrible will happen to your loved ones. It’s the kind that changes your life, incapacitates you, and turns you into a raving lunatic. That is OCD…and those other OCD claims are simply quirks, and something we all have a little bit of.

I was diagnosed with OCD almost 3 years ago, when I went to my Doctor because I thought I was honestly having a break down. My mental state had deteriorated immensely and I was trapped in a vicious cycle of illogical things to alleviate an intense anxiety that never seemed to wane. When she diagnosed me with OCD, I was horrified. The only people I knew of with OCD were extreme, and lived on the streets. I was terrified that my mostly normal life was in jeopardy because of this thing that seemed to pop up out of nowhere.

I began to do research, and the more research I did, the more I learned that while the extremities of the illness do exist – it is actually more common among the high functioning than the low functioning. And that began my journey through OCD.

My doctor informed me that few people with OCD manage without lifelong medication. I was determined to be one of those few, and she (bless her heart) supported me wholeheartedly under two conditions: 1) That I took medication whenever I was unstable, until we determined I was stable again and 2) I went to therapy. I happily agreed, even though it damaged my pride immensely. There is still so much shame in mental illness and therapy (especially in my family, I have actually only told my one sister and my hubby about my OCD). I didn’t ask for this, but here I was being dealt these cards and I knew I had to find a way to manage it so I could go back to having a normalish life.

So I took the medications and I went to therapy. I changed my diet. I learned how to recognize my OCD from quirks, my triggers, and how to accept that this is an illness I will have for the rest of my life. I learned skills to get me off of the “carousel” (that’s what I call it when I’m stuck in an OCD cycle of compulsions and anxiety) before it became debilitating. I learned how to dodge the comments on how often I wash my hands, and how I already checked that door twice more easily, etc. etc. without shame and without feeling the need to admit to my illness. (Something I struggled with immensely before). This summer I was stable enough to wean off the medications. I was thrilled to be medication free, and everything seemed to be going great. I was managing my OCD like a rockstar – completely medication free!

And then my marriage hit the rocks, and everything went downhill from there.

That’s the thing about chronic mental illness. It’s always there. When you’re in a good place, it’s just lingering on the peripherals but as soon as you hit a bad place it swoops in and takes over. So when I found out about what was going on with Mr. Big, it swept it like a night rider and grabbed onto me tightly. It promised me that if I only gave in to my compulsions, I would feel better – it would help me get through this (spoiler alert: mental illness is a big fat liar).

It actually only made everything worse. I was so overcome with the OCD, I had no space to process anything else. As the days went by, things kept getting worse and worse. I developed severe anxiety and panic attacks. Finally, I returned to my Doctor waving my white flag – I was in a bad place, and I needed help. As per our initial agreement, I took the prescription and I started the meds…and as much as I hate being medicated, I know she is right.

That’s the cycle of mental illness – you’re OK until you’re not OK, and then you’re REALLY NOT OK until you’re OK again. Hopefully you’re able to do something to get you OK before you do something drastic.

It stinks, but that’s how it goes when you have a chronic mental illness… you learn to take the meds because life without them when you’re unstable is no life at all. And as my GP always points out: this is only temporary. I was stable off meds before, and I will be stable off meds again. Just not today.

Can I also note how lucky I am? My GP is 100% supportive and always hears me out with an open mind – even some of my crazier ideas – and she is happy to support me in any way she can as long as I remain proactive and honest about my mental health. She is my biggest advocate and I am truly lucky to have her as my GP in a country where GP’s (even the bad ones) are hard to come by.

Thankfully I am finally on the upswing now, although I still have bad days. When my OCD is at it’s worst, there is no dealing with anything else because it takes all my energy just to manage the OCD. Since I’m on the upswing, I am now able to dedicate a little more time to the other things in my life – which is making me feel more and more like myself every day.

So – to summarize:

  1. OCD is not a joke. Please don’t joke about it (I’ve seen an influx of jokes about it lately), it discredits the severity of the illness…and I hope something in my post has resonated with you that this is a very serious, life altering illness and not at all the same thing as the way you like to sort your books/arrange your desk/closet.
  2. If you, or someone you know, is suffering…please, PLEASE, get help or help them get help. I won’t lie: it is scary, it is overwhelming, it makes you feel ashamed and broken. The idea of being medicated is scary and toxic and I didn’t want it either… but eventually, with the right help, you WILL feel better and it will be worth it.

I really think the more people like me talk about this, the more normal it becomes and the more people step out of their own personal hell and reach out for help – which is truly the intent of these kinds of posts. If you’re struggling: know you are not alone and it doesn’t have to be this way. Reach out to anyone you can for help, you’ll be amazed how many people can relate if we would just learn to talk about it.

Thanks for reading!!