(Remember) Walking In the Sand

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    A lesson in Stress Management 101 is learned as a burned-out LTC nurse searches for treasure in the sands of a Pacific Coast beach. As her time on medical leave grows short, she tries to collect her thoughts as well before plunging back into the fiery hell that her work life has become....and discovers that one effective self-care strategy is only an hour's drive away.

    "I Had A Life---But My Job Ate It" proclaims the bumper sticker I just put on our 13-year-old Ford. I don't usually adorn my vehicles with stickers---I've always thought they were sort of tacky---but considering all that's gone on in the past few weeks, it's quite appropriate.

    I bought the sticker in a funky little gift shop, the kind that can only be found in beach towns like the one my husband and I visited yesterday. We'd gone there on strict physician's orders---my psychiatrist and I share a love of the ocean, and he'd actually written a script for me to take my husband and go to the coast for a day. (I rather like his prescriptions; the next one, he tells me, will be for a trip to Hawaii.) So, rather than protesting "I can't, we don't have the money" or "I can't, I need to work", I simply followed instructions, and off we went.

    I could practically feel the stress lift from me as we drove into town and caught the first whiff of salt air. The seashore is the one place where I've always found peace....it's the place from which I draw the strength I need to face whatever I must face. It occurred to me that it had been almost two years since I'd been here; no wonder my well had run dry. And as we trudged through the soft sand toward the water, it felt as though a burden was dropping off my back and shoulders with each step.

    We explored the tidepools and delighted in the wet sand, which glistened with treasures from the sea. I took pictures of some yellowish seafoam that had formed iridescent bubbles, and made a short video of our adventures with my smartphone. We held hands as we walked along, just like a young couple; we dodged seagulls and tried not to stare when a shirtless, pale-skinned, and very large older gentleman lumbered across the beach. And we talked.....not just husband-and-wife talk, but the sort of conversation that only people who have known and been comfortable with each other for many, many years can appreciate.

    Eventually, he went to use the restroom and I was left alone on the shore with the magnificent Pacific Ocean before me, its endless waves roaring so loud as to drown out any self-recrimination or anxiety about not being at work. As always, I fell into a state of relaxation---and contemplation---that I've never been able to attain anyplace else on earth. Seeing the mighty ocean, in its beauty and its terror, reminded me once again of how insignificant all my little problems really are in the grand scheme of things, which offers a refreshing perspective at times when I get bogged down in the minutiae of life.

    Standing on the beach, it no longer mattered that there was a stack of incident reports on my desk or that the state surveyors were due to return any day now......in fact, these issues (to say nothing of the associated stress) might as well have been a million miles away, instead of a mere hour's drive and an eighth of a tank of gas. How foolish I'd been not to do this more often....and how sad that it had taken a doctor's order to persuade me to allow myself this pleasure in the first place!

    It's amazing what fresh air, exercise, and a day of pure enjoyment can do. Last night I slept better than I have in many months, and without medications to boot (I fell asleep with the sound of the ocean in my ears before I could take them). But it also made me realize that I'm not yet ready to return to work, that I need to follow my doctor's and my superiors' advice to get completely better before I attempt it.

    This is not easy for me to admit. I've always been someone who keeps going long after others have given up on a bad situation and walked away, and for only the second time in my life, I reached the point where I couldn't do it anymore. Seven years ago, I flamed out in a spectacular burst of emotional fireworks and walked out on my hospital job, never to return again; to say the least, I don't care to repeat that performance, especially not at my age and in the middle of a job shortage.

    Bottom line, I have to practice what I'm forever preaching to others about self-care. I need to remember walking in the sand and allowing the fear and anxiety to roll off my back. I also need to keep in mind that I have only this one life, and when it's over I am NOT going to wish I'd spent more time at work, thinking about work, or stressing about work.

    Thanks, Doc.
    Last edit by Joe V on Apr 19, '13
    beckster_01, texasmum, SchoolRNAmy, and 26 others like this.

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  2. About VivaLasViejas, ASN, RN

    VivaLasViejas has '17' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'LTC, assisted living, geriatrics, psych'. From 'The Great Northwest'; 55 Years Old; Joined Sep '02; Posts: 25,260; Likes: 36,764.

    Read more articles from VivaLasViejas

    21 Comments so far...

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    Viva, I'm not as wise as you are. i have always enjoyed your writings and insights. You know what you need to do. It is up to you to do it. Just, take care of yourself.
    Esme12, poppycat, NurseOnAMotorcycle, and 1 other like this.
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    I am glad you found refuge, healing, and comfort, my friend. I could hope for nothing less for you.

    I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord,
    For each scene I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand;
    One belonged to me, and the other to the Lord.

    I noticed that many times along the path of my life,
    There was only one set of footprints.

    "Lord, I have noticed that during the
    most troublesome times in my life,
    There is only one set of footprints."

    The Lord replied, "My precious, precious
    child, when you saw only one set of footprints,
    It was then that I carried you."

    ~~Author Unknown~~

    Excerpt: "Footprints"

    SeaH20RN, Marshall1, Esme12, and 3 others like this.
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    One of my all time favorite verses.....yes, that is what I feel like right now. I'm just thankful the Lord can lug my 300 lbs. along the beach or I'd be in a peck of trouble!
    silverbat, nursel56, Esme12, and 3 others like this.
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    Thank you for this reminder, Viva.

    Experiences and people should always take priority over money and material things. We will always remember the sight of the majestic waves crashing near the shore, but will easily forget about that pricey smartphone we thought we simply couldn't resist back in 2010.

    And people on their deathbeds never declare, "Gee, I wish I worked more when I was younger! All I ever wanted was to work another shift!" Dying peoples' regrets seem to revolve around their relationships with people, experiences they never had, and dreams that will forever be deferred. No dying person begs for more time at the workplace.

    Some of the best things in life are free, such as the walk at the beach, or the stroll at the park, or the luscious rays emanating from the sun.
    Marshall1, marydc, nursel56, and 5 others like this.
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    Can you just live by the sea and be a writer?
    I absolutely loved all your writings, it has this way of reaching out to the core of the heart of any reader. It's so pure and sentimental.
    Marshall1 and VivaLasViejas like this.
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    Thank so much for this friendly reminder.....life is so short....i love your articles
    VivaLasViejas likes this.
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    Care for yourself Viva....enjoy that ocean and other of God's creations!
    "when I am exhausted I lose perpsective of what God is, He is for me not against me, I need to remember that. God hears us and responds with tender touches of the Trinity" Not sure where this is from but it was sent to me in a needed time and thought I would pass it on!
    Marshall1, Esme12, and VivaLasViejas like this.
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    Quote from motherof3sons
    "when I am exhausted I lose perpsective of what God is, He is for me not against me, I need to remember that. God hears us and responds with tender touches of the Trinity"
    I love this! Thank you for sharing it......it definitely resonates with me at this unsteady time.
    Esme12 and VickyRN like this.
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    Unless things change in your position, you know what you have to do, glad you enjoyed your day!
    VivaLasViejas likes this.

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