It strikes me how we live our lives, determined to end the cycle – whatever “cycle” we so choose to blame our ancestors for placing us in. We think we have all the answers. We believe we’ve found the way. We vow to give our kids a better life, to do better than our own parents did.
We come into parenthood with the best of intentions, armed with the knowledge of all the things our parents did wrong and everything we think we’ll do different. But what we fail to realize is the fact that times have also changed since we were kids, therefore, so must our methods of parenting – and then, even if we do, the outcome is still not guaranteed and, unfortunately, is not always what we’ve intended.
It doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat or Republican, pro- or anti-vaccine, into homeschooling, virtual learning, or doing school in-person – raising kids in any day or age is a Herculean task. Just as soon as you start to find your footing, it seems as if the earth shifts again. Doing “the best thing for your family” seems like a frustrating impossibility, riddled with severe consequences. How are we ever supposed to raise strong, resilient, independent adult children in a world like this?
There has never been a time in our world’s wild history that has ever yielded the “perfect circumstances” in which to raise the “perfect child”. And, for the record, there’s no such thing as perfect children – nor any perfect parents.
Regardless of when this great responsibility bestows itself upon you, you’re going to do the best that you can – and you’re going to make mistakes. That’s just the way that it is. Don’t beat yourself up over it, that’s not going to help. Give yourself some credit. Allow yourself some grace.
I was talking with a friend recently, who is currently struggling with her teenage daughter. The arguments and behaviors she relayed to me brought back memories of myself and my own daughter. The funny thing is, while our life stories are a lot alike in so many ways, the decisions she and I ultimately made as mothers were completely different – yet, the end result is still very much the same. So, again, I implored her to give herself some grace.
It’s easy to look back and question decisions you have made in the past, but it’s unfair to punish yourself for them. You can’t blame yourself for not knowing back then what you know now – and, the truth is, you made every decision for a very specific reason, based on what you believed was best at that time. As we grow up, we learn and evolve. Maybe the person you are now would have done things differently back then? Hindsight is always 20/20, but you can’t live your life well if you’re constantly looking behind you. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you made when you simply didn’t know any better and understand that, no matter what, no mother is a better mother for your child than YOU!
The truth is, you can not predict the future or foresee what the ripple effect of your actions may be. You’ve got to trust in your journey, make the best decisions you can based on the knowledge you have at the time, and hold onto the hope that it will all work out in the end. The rest is out of your control.
Let’s be honest – no mother is ever completely a child’s idea of what a mother should be – and I suppose it works the other way around as well. Looking back on my own family life and upbringing, despite everything, we didn’t do badly by one another. We did as well as most. I wish my mother were here so I could tell her that I finally know this – so I could tell her that I forgive her…and then, one day, ask my own daughter to forgive me.
On a very deep level, I am finding that I reject the notion that we must always remain in a constant state of doing. We have such serious focus in the spiritual community around the need to heal. We spend so much time in a constant consciousness of:
“I’m not there yet”
“I’m working on myself”
“Who I am, is broken”
This “awareness” continually keeps us seekingrather than accepting. Rather than loving ourselves, we pick ourselves apart. We become consumed with all the work we still have yet to do, rather than acknowledging our quirky bad ass selves and appreciating every little thing that we already are.
Those committed to personal growth will always remain cognizant and continually strive to improve – but do not let this admirable desire to pursue personal growth, in fact, become your affliction. Release this iron grip that you’ve placed upon yourself and the expectation that you must remain in a constant state of motion, always striving to become more or better or different. Sometimes you just need to relax and appreciate the hard things you’ve already accomplished, as well as your willingness to continue on in your spiritual journey. How can one ever maintain or enjoy a state of inner peace if they are in a constant state of unrest, plagued by this incessant desire to do more and be more?
Pause for a moment, breathe, and just BE.
Trust me, a person who has been on this path does not become more selfish or self centered as we integrate. On the contrary, when we relax and learn to love and accept ourselves in all our flaws, we soften – we allow ourselves and, therefore, in turn, allow each other. Afterall, love is what actually heals us – not necessarily noticing every single thing that we think is wrong with us or behaviors that require work for us to unlearn. In this way, the idea of “healing” is, in fact, a form of separation – an idea that you need to be something that you currently are not, and this continually pushes away consciousness for present wholeness.
This isn’t to highlight or diminish the actual experience of gathering the pieces of your heart through a healing process but eventually, on this path, you will get to a place of enough – when you’ve had ENOUGHof healing and you decide, instead, to simply accept and love exactly who, what, where, and how you already are.
How about – let’s heal the idea that “healing” is even needed? And, instead , move into and through this paradigm by celebrating the F*ck out of everything – because celebrating your incredible self, as you already are, really is THE WAY FORWARD!
I’ve got a thing for the type of people who are undeniably themselves.
The ones who offer up their friendship with no strings attached, no hidden agendas – no tit for tat, no this for that. The friendships formed simply for companionship and camaraderie. The people who exude sunshine and grace, silver linings amidst the intermittent storm clouds of Life.
The ones who have nothing to gain from loving you and, with whom, you can be your most authentic self – no brave facade facing the world, no explanation or justification.
The ones too busy loving you to ever find time to judge you – who help repair whatever is broken, heal whatever hurts and never hold anything against you. The ones capable of patiently acknowledging the simple fact that human imperfection plagues us all – not a single one of us has walked a completely blameless, straight and narrow path, free of shortcomings and mistakes.
The ones you can be silly with, completely real with – raw, uncensored and unfiltered. The ones who are always up for an adventure – who, regardless of their age, refuse to ever grow old. They innately know how to navigate life intentionally, while never taking anything too seriously.
The ones who will rise up in the morning, with no incessant need or desire for “productivity”, and sip coffee while watching the sun rise. The ones who appreciate the metaphorical beauty of every sunset, whether pristine or a random mixture of chaotic colors. The ones who marvel at the stars, admiring their ability to shine brightly against a sky full of darkness.
The ones who stand by your side, steadfast and strong, as you observe and question this world, all of its happenings and life experiences along the way. The ones who help you reason your way through them, knowing that neither one of you will ever truly know the WHY behind any of it – because the most definitive answers are almost always, ultimately, out of this world. Still, they speculate with you, the best that they can, understanding that interpretation is always subject to our own personal perceptions.
The ones who see in color and feel vibrations, who trust their gut and encourage you to always trust yours – the sixth sense that is rarely ever wrong.
The ones with whom you can talk incessantly about all the magical and mundane details of Life – or share in the comfort and simplicity of mutual silence, knowing that not every detail requires discussion and not every topic is deserving of speech.
I’ve got a thing for these types of people – the ones who are unapologetically themselves. The ones with messy hair and even messier souls, who wear their hearts on their sleeves and have passion in their tears. The ones with poetry in their heart and song lyrics running through their brain.
The ones who laugh at their own jokes and rejoice in their own success. The people who fight for what they believe in and never let their spirit settle. The kind of people who have the strength to remain soft, yet let their fire burn hard. The ones who possess the mysterious ability to sense precisely what is stuck or wounded in you, who often appear unexpectedly, with uncanny timing and, through the energy of their presence, restore your spirit and leave the world feeling alive and remarkable once more.
The ones you love for all the “right” reasons… as well as the ones you love “just because”. The ones you can not describe with words because their aura is so vast that it can not be contained. These kinds of people do not arrive accidentally; they bring with them a particular gift and illumination.
These are the kind of people I fall in love with. These are the kind of people I want in my life. These are the people who become my friends.
“I woke up one day and realized that I could do better. I could create a life that I love, travel more if I wanted it bad enough, take control of my health, and find weird and wonderful friends to go on adventures with. I started walking toward that truth and I never looked back.”
– Brooke Hampton
Three years ago, my life was completely different. I had hit rock bottom, personally and professionally.
I could have chosen to remain stuck there, drowning in grief, blindsided by PTSD, and succumbing to complete and utter professional burn out – but I knew that I deserved better. I knew that I was capable of more. I chose to step forward from that place and, once I did, I never looked back.
Was is scary? Of course!
Was it uncomfortable? Absolutely!
Change is almost always scary, and growth is most definitely uncomfortable. Both are time consuming processes and results do not happen overnight. You’ve got to put in the time. You’ve got to do the work. But, when the metamorphosis begins, you’ll be so thankful that you did.
If this resonates with you, even just a little bit – what exactly are you waiting for?
Just three years after completely changing my own, I can find no better words to describe the urgency in pursuing a better life for yourself than by quoting my friend, Tony Garcia, in a piece that he’s already perfectly written:
…until you’re older or bolder or told you can.
…until you’re ready or unafraid or completely certain.
…until tomorrow comes or the time is right or you have it all figured out.
…until a door opens or a door closes or a door finally appears.
…to write your book, to write your song, to write your love letter.
…to take the trip, to take the leap, to take the day off.
…to quit the job that doesn’t work, to quit the art of procrastinating, to quit the doubting of yourself.
…to launch your business, to launch your product, to launch yourself.
…to speak your apology, to speak your gratitude, to speak your I love you.
…to chase the clouds, to chase the storm, to chase the dream.
…to create your masterpiece, to create your vision, to create your life.
…to spread a little hope, to spread a little kindness, to spread a little love.
…to do something epic, to do something impossible, to do something memorable.
…to dance with wild abandon, to dance with your love, to dance with the wind.
…to use the good dishes, to use the good linens, to use the good within you.
…to start climbing, to start flying, to start living.
…for life is short and fragile and finite.
…and before you know it, most of it is behind you. Because you can’t put time on hold.
…yet, so many live their life in a constant holding pattern.
The question that runs through every person’s mind when they’re face to face with a Paramedic whose resume harbors nearly two decades of field experience.
The question that flashes with realization first in their eyes, then spreads across their face and, occasionally, presents itself in the words spoken from their ignorant mouths.
It starts with:
“Wow. You must have seen so much!”
The question that often follows:
“What’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen?”
This is the question that every seasoned Paramedic dreads. The question whose answer, once spoken, can never be unheard. The answers are things our minds can never unsee – emblazoned in our memories and seared into our hearts. Flashbacks filled with unprocessed emotions as painful as each of the moments in which these things occurred.
The saddest part is, there is no single answer to this particular question – as a million memories of calls gone by flash through my mind in rapid succession. The answer I might choose to give may actually even surprise you.
It is not always the most gory scene – a plane crash or train derailment. Vehicle crashes complete with mangled bodies, twisted metal, tales of heavy entrapment and intricate extrication. It’s not always the gunshots or stab wounds, or bar room brawls that spilled out onto the street in the darkest of nights. It’s not the blackened face or elongated neck of the man who hung himself from the ceiling in his garage – or the disturbing fact that he all he had to do was stand up on his own two feet in order to save his own life.
The worst is found when you focus your attention upon the details, themselves. The heartbreak of a man left to face “the golden years” of life alone – so broken down in his sadness and heartache that he gives away all of his earthly belongings and writes a note so sound with his decision, certain in his belief that he’d be with her, once again. The way he warned his cleaning lady, rather than surprising her, by posting a sign on the door of his home to be seen before she entered:
“Body in garage. Call Police.”
The way he meticulously laid down that plastic tarp for easy clean up, penning an apology to all of us responding, for any mess he may leave behind, as he placed the barrel of that gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger.
Why would you want to know of such things?
Like the man so distraught over a financial crisis and loss of his business that he swallowed a handful of pills, washed it down with a bottle of bleach and ran rampant through the streets, screaming, as his internal organs began to shut down and he died a very slow and painful death.
Or the limp and lifeless body of the child who suffocated inside a hope chest, following a game of hide and seek gone terribly wrong. Or the two unsupervised toddlers, who climbed up on an unsecured dresser, being subsequently crushed to death beneath its fallen weight.
Why would want me to paint this picture or have these images parading inside your mind?
The distressed mother who attempted to “accidentally” drown her child in a bath tub.
The fractured face of young, up and coming model whose jealous boyfriend inflicted irreparable damage with his fists and the help of a Louisville slugger.
Picking up the pieces, strewn across a quarter mile, of a person who stepped in front of a train.
Or the elderly woman, suffering from a “simple nosebleed” who, over the course of the next hour, continued to bleed out into the bathroom sink at the assisted care facility where she lives, proudly boasting the title of “Mayor of the West Wing”, where she had won the facility’s “Dance Off” competition the night before. At 99 years of age, she is sharp as a tack, fiesty and independent, full of detailed stories about her world travels and exciting escapades experienced in the days of her youth. She holds stable throughout the rapid transport to the hospital, despite your inability to control her bleeding. But, as your partner backs into the ambulance bay and prepares to help you unload her, she looks up at the sky and lets out the biggest sigh:
“Oh, Honey! Is this what it’s like? This is nice!”
And, just like that, she is gone… leaving you stunned and speechless, with nothing more than the emesis basin holding every drop of blood her tiny body had contained.
Why do these details fascinate you?
The popping of a person’s ribs and the snapping of their sternum, palpable beneath your hands as you compress into it, performing CPR, knowing that the breaking of their bones is a small price to pay for the opportunity to save their life. Eventually, however, you remove your hands from that person’s chest, look into their dead eyes, as their family and friends surround you, anxiously watching every move you make and you just know… there’s nothing more that you can do.
Don’t you realize that it broke my heart when I delivered that infant, born at just 22 weeks gestation, and I heard him cry? How I held him in the palm of hand and worked to resuscitate him for nearly 45 minutes straight, only to find out that no help is coming because “protocol states, it’s not a viable pregnancy until 24 weeks”. How I was forced to let him go – just stand there and watch as his tiny heart beat so hard against the wall of his skeletal chest… until it didn’t anymore.
Or how I was ridiculed for stalling in the Cath Lab hallway, giving verbal report to the receiving cardiac team, while providing my patient and her husband the opportunity for what would later be remembered as their one last kiss.
Or that hot and hazy 4th of July when, upon calling back into the county and being assigned a post, we came upon an 8 year old in distress, waving us down in the middle of the street. His hair was red and wet, matted down with sweat. He was covered in dirt, wearing only a pair of red and blue shorts – no shirt and no shoes.
“Lady, can you help? It’s my mom – she can’t swim!”
It took nearly an hour to locate the scene along the riverbank from which this child had run, in search of help. It took another hour to assemble river rescue and execute their search, locating her body beneath the murky water. I will never forget the striking resemblance between this woman and her son – same fiery red hair, same pale green eyes. It will take my entire lifetime to forget the look of betrayal on that young child’s face as we carried her lifeless body up out of the river, through the woods, and placed her in my Ambulance for transport to the morgue – my words of reassurance to him echoing in my mind as I had held his little hand along that riverbank, praying to a God I’m not even sure I believe in, begging for some miraculously better outcome than the one I, inevitably, knew would follow.
Can’t you see that a piece of my soul died along with them? That no amount of time will ever make any of these things “alright”?
The placing of a needle through the submental portion of your patient’s neck, administering Narcan through the vasculature beneath their tongue, because their jaw is clenched down, containing a mouthful of vomit, and they have no adequate veins left in their arms, hands, legs, feet or neck in which to place an IV. It’s the moment when they wake up, insisting that they did nothing, and then sign out of the hospital AMA only to repeat this cycle again a week later and die.
It’s performing conscious BVM ventilations on a patient who is struggling to breathe – and that awkward moment when they lock their eyes on yours in an uncomfortable mixture of silent, somber communication and gratitude.
It’s strategically placing a large bore needle through the chest wall of a woman who looks like your grandmother, decompressing her fragile, collapsed lung, temporarily restoring her ability to breathe.
Or the moment when those bullets, fists, and blades are turned upon you – and suddenly you are no longer racing to the scene to save someone else, but rather, in a race for your own personal safety and the safety of your partner.
It’s the terrified cardiac patient who attempts to strangle you with your own stethoscope because he believes you’re not doing enough to help him or save his life.
Or the irrational psych patient who breaks through their restraints, kicks you in the chest and again in the throat, as you struggle to breathe and get away safely while they continue to advance, threatening to kill you.
The retired veteran suffering from PTSD, after being held captive as a POW, who wakes up startled, in a fight for his life, sees you as the enemy and squares off in preparation for battle. It’s that terrifying look in his eyes that causes you to jump out the side door of a moving ambulance and lock him inside the box until police can arrive and assist you with backup.
Delivering a baby, in the backseat of car, through the leg hole of an oversized pair of shorts, to a 15 year old who refuses to even look at, let alone hold, her newborn daughter the entire way to the hospital. It’s walking out of that ER, speaking with the patient’s grandma (her legal guardian) who never even knew the girl was pregnant and realizing that, had that bystander not been walking by, had they not noticed this teenager giving birth, and had they not called 911… this infant quite possibly would have ended up inside the dumpster in that alleyway across the street.
It’s arguing with the patient about to be transported to a level one trauma center, who regains consciousness and wishes to refuse, just as the medical helicopter is landing. It’s the look on her face when you tell her that she was unconscious for nearly 15 minutes straight, as you worked to extricate her from the wreckage… and the heartbreak that follows as reality sets in with the news of her friend, pronounced dead, in the passenger seat beside her.
It’s locking eyes with your patient or their family, their faces so close to yours, and absorbing all of their unspoken emotions – the fear, the pain, the terror, the heartbreak. It’s taking all of that fear and pain and terror and heartbreak and transforming it into a reassuring smile or randomly awkward joke that lets them know that it’s all going to be alright – even when you have no way of knowing if it will, in fact, ever be alright again.
Like the time a young woman locked herself in the tiny bathroom of a local bar, injected heroin into her veins, and collapsed on the floor, completely blocking your ability to break in and save her. It’s listening to the ticking of the old clock on the wall, as you wait for the fire department to arrive with an ax to break down the doorframe, knowing that each minute that passes by equates to more and more death of this patient’s brain tissue, thereby decreasing her chances for survival. It’s breaking down that door’s barrier, gaining access to her pulseless, apneic body and working swiftly to resuscitate her, as her family arrives at the scene, enmeshing their own energy into this dire scenario. It’s being successful with your skill set and in your endeavors to reignite the automaticity of her heart… only to find out, a few weeks later, that although her heart is beating and she is independently breathing, the damage to her brain was severe and irreparable. She is completely incoherent – unable to eat, speak, sit, stand, walk or follow any commands. She will live out the rest of her life, practically lifeless, confined to a bed – her days filled with nothing more than diaper changes, tube feedings, and body rotations by staff, helping to minimize the severity of her bed sores and lessen her chances of severe and chronic infections.
The next time you find yourself face to face with a current or former Paramedic and hear yourself say: “Wow, you must have seen a lot.”, please – just leave it at that. Do not allow yourself to follow it up with “What’s the worst you’ve ever seen?” … because the only Paramedic willing and eager to answer this question is the one whose hands are still so fresh and relatively clean – before the dirt of these experiences have marred their hearts and the blood their patients have shed throughout the years permeates their soul. Once it does, it forever changes who they are.
“Yeah…” I replied, earlier today, as their eyes were fixed upon mine. I offered up a forced smile, before continuing, “…but that was then, and this is now.” But, even as I said it, the weight of these things (and about a million more) pressed down heavily upon me. I offered no further details with my response.
Their faces flickered with the disappointment of unrealized expectation, but I held my ground in silence, and they chose not question me further – because eyes that have seen too much will always give you away.
Lifelong commitment is not what most people think it is. It’s not waking up every morning to make breakfast and sip coffee together. It’s not cuddling in bed every night until the both of you fall asleep. It’s not always a clean home filled with laughter and love making everyday.
It’s someone who steals the covers and snores. It’s slammed doors and a few harsh words at times. It’s stubbornly disagreeing and giving each other the silent treatment until your hearts heal – and then forgiveness.
It’s coming home to the same person every day that loves you and cares about you in spite of, and because of, who you are.
Its laughing about that one time you did something really stupid – and vowing to never do it again. It’s dirty laundry and unmade beds. It’s helping each other with the hard work of life. It’s swallowing your nagging words instead of saying them out loud. It’s eating the easiest meal you can make and sitting down together at a late hour because BOTH of you had a crazy day.
It’s when you have an emotional breakdown and your love lays down with you, holds you, and tells you that everything is going to be alright – and you believe them. It’s loving them even when they’re driving you absolutely crazy and especially when they are acting like their most “unlovable” self.
Loving someone forever isn’t always easy. Sometimes it’s really hard. But it is amazing and comforting, and one of the best things you will ever experience in your entire lifetime!
So, if you’re lucky enough to have already found that man… don’t waste any more precious time. LOVE HIM!
He’s not perfect. Neither are you. And the two of you will never always be perfect together. But if he can make you laugh at least once, causes you to think twice, admits to being human and making mistakes, holds your hand and kisses your forehead, LOVE THAT MAN – and give him the best that you can.
Maybe he can’t quote you any poetry, and he’s not going to be thinking about you every minute of every day, but he will give you a part of him that he knows you could break. Don’t hurt him, don’t change him, and don’t expect for more than what he can give. Don’t over analyze. Smile when he makes you happy, tell him when he makes you mad, and miss him when he’s not there.
Love hard while there is love to be had and live it up for as long as it lasts, because no love is absolutely perfect, but this kind of love is absolutely perfect for you.
No matter how much we plan our future, life will often throw us curveballs. There are moments in our lives that change our hearts forever.
For me it was receiving “that phone call” back in 2017, informing me of the sudden and untimely deaths of both my parents. Then again, the day I fell out of the sky and became suddenly and seriously injured. For others, it’s a diagnosis, an unexpected job loss, a surprise pregnancy. The goodbyes, the hellos – the endings and the beginnings. Moments when time freezes through the constant beat of our hearts, and then morphs into something completely foreign and forever different. We’ll always remember. We never forget where we stood at these pivotal moments and how, in an instant, life transformed us into complete strangers unto ourselves and how we now find ourselves navigating our lives down an unexpected path.
This weekend marks ONE YEAR since I became injured in that skydiving accident. I am still recovering from my injuries. I’ve had two surgeries to repair my arm/wrist, and am now facing another surgery to repair the unhealed fractures in my spine. I can do almost anything without assistance now, aside from heavy lifting, but am currently unable to do the things that I love the most – like running and strength training. Skydiving is also no longer an option, as just one more hard landing would most likely render me paralyzed.
So much has changed for me over the course of this past year, and none of it has been easy. Regardless, though, time moves on. That’s the thing about time – no matter what happens, it keeps moving forward. Therefore, so do I.
I had originally planned to run an ultramarathon this weekend – a 24-hour, 100-mile race for Team RWB. That is, obviously, no longer an option… so, instead, my husband and I are flying out to Las Vegas to forget the world for a little while and immerse ourselves in the sights, sounds, and summer heat rising up off of the desert strip where we chose to exchange our wedding vows. This is exactly the kind of “adapt and overcome” scenario that makes us such a perfect marital match. Rather than stagnate in all the “would-a, could-a, should-a been’s”, we choose to make the best of our current situation by seizing this opportunity for adventure. It’s who we are, it’s what we do.
In previous blogs I’ve mentioned how I felt like the Universe keeps trying to teach me the value of letting things go… but now I believe I may have (repeatedly) been missing the point. Perhaps the lesson at hand is actually not about letting go at all – but in simply appreciating all that already is?
I’ve spent so many years (decades, actually) as a Paramedic, facing death and fighting death, pushing that envelope back so far that I seem to have lost sight of what it really means to simply live. I’ve become addicted to the adrenaline rush, pursuing all of the things that make me feel the most alive – like running, racing, and skydiving – and then taking each of them to the utmost extreme. For instance, with running, if I couldn’t go far, I’d go fast – personal best fast, age group award winning fast, gender winning fast. If couldn’t go fast, I’d go far – marathon far, ultramarathon far, 100-miles in 24-hours far. It’s like I was never truly content to just run – or to simply be physically capable of running. Now that I have been forced to stop doing all of these things, it’s making me realize how out of balance I actually was with each and every one of them.
Even with this upcoming surgery to repair my spine and the intense treatment plan that will follow, I have become so hopeful about making a return to marathon running that thoughts of another Boston Marathon have already begun to dance around in my head! Old habits really do die hard and it can be such a vicious cycle. You have to continually check yourself, again and again, and bring your wandering mind back down to the basics – to the things that really matter.
I am beginning to realize that I am being called upon to move beyond this place of urgency and extremes, constantly trying to do more and be more. I am being encouraged to grow, and to move forward with gratitude and grace for all that I already am, the physical capabilities that I have, as well as, honor and appreciate the people in my life who have continued to love and support me throughout this entire journey, no matter what the end result so happens to be.
Instead of focusing all of my time, energy and thoughts upon making a marathon comeback, I am now making a conscious effort to focus on the fact that I am lucky enough to receive a second chance at all. So many other people who have suffered similar injuries, for one reason or another, don’t always get this chance. The fact that I do, makes me realize how fortunate I actually am… and I refuse to let myself waste this once in a lifetime opportunity by selfishly wanting for more.