COVID Grief Relief Blog
By Chaplain, Daniel Tipton
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I came across a meme recently that depicted a conversation between a person trying to sleep and their overly active, anxious imagination. The imagination said with disgust as the person slept soundly “I don’t even know who you are anymore, it’s like you don’t even care about that thing you did in third grade!” I’ve never felt more seen! My name is Daniel and I have anxiety!
Anxiety defines every thing I do. Every word I type. Every word I speak. Everything I create. I worry about it all. How will it be received? Will they like it? Did I check my grammar? Maybe read that again before you hit send…are you sure your hair isn’t flying all over the place. Are you talking too much? Check your tone in that text…you hurt their feelings didn’t you…They all hate you and are only nice to you so you’ll leave them alone….and on and on it goes from the moment I wake up to the moment I wake up…even in sleep I cannot fully escape my anxiety.
It's something I’ve learned to mitigate over the years. I’ve learned to cope in some healthy ways…some ways though, not so much. I have learned to be (or at least project the image of) a productive professional, capable and qualified. Truth is, my biggest fear is being exposed as a fraud, incompetent and overstated.
During my Clinical Pastoral Education residency I decided it was time to face these anxious, self-defeating behaviors. It was time. So, in my individual supervision sessions with my mentor I would openly share when and where they popped up during the week. I became laser focused on taking note of all the circumstances surrounding my fear and anxiety. I brought them all to my mentor wrapped up in a package ready to be examined and picked through and forced into submission. What I got was two of the wisest, most sobering words: STOP IT!
My mentor then played a clip of Bob Newhart in a Mad TV sketch. Whenever the client mentioned something she felt was wrong with her like over analyzing everyone’s motives or being fearful of intimacy the wise doctor’s response was “STOP IT”! As I sat there stunned with half my brain shocked by the simplicity of the cure and the other half ashamed because I couldn’t do it, my mentor gently reminded me that the first step to easing my reactivity to anxiety is to stop reacting.
He taught me to stop. Not ignore, not escape, but stop. Stop giving fear power. Stop giving worry the right to control my life. Once I reclaimed the power anxiety had over me, it freed my resolve to address and heal the wounds and scars underneath. I defeated the chaos by standing still. This is not a platitude of “oh don’t worry, it’ll be ok.” That doesn’t work and it is harmful. Instead it is a way to retake and reorganize power. It is also not a cure for extreme cases of pathological anxiety disorders. Sometimes we need the assistance of medical and pharmacological interventions to give us the clarity and the strength to be still long enough to overcome our anxiety.
As we each adjust to life in new and strange ways the opportunities to worry will increase. Will my work expose me or those I love to danger? Will I be able to keep my job and provide for my family’s needs? Will my friends survive? Will I survive? All of those reasonable questions that arise in times like these are part of our evolutionary response to danger. If we didn’t weigh possibilities and make informed decisions we could die.Worry, however, is allowing the process of informed decision making get stuck in an infinite loop of analysis. I call this the paralysis of analysis. We never move beyond the what ifs. We worry about things beyond our control and we weaken. We obsess over things long past and we shame ourselves into inferiority. We stress over the worst case scenarios and we grow weary before we’ve even begun. Worry wears us down and neutralizes our dynamic agency over our physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing.
So, STOP IT! Stop giving all of your power away. Stop allowing the monsters of the world overcome you and paralyze you in fear. If you can’t stop, find help! Use the benefits of your Employee Assistance Network, join a support group, call your doctor. Make a decision, even if it’s a small one. Don’t let that which cannot be controlled steal your free agency over that which you can.
This is life long work. Only now in the increased stress of living during a pandemic are most of us waking up to the presence of anxiety or noticing how much power we have given to it. So take baby steps if you must. Adjust your eyes to see. Allow yourself some grace. Soothe your aching soul and be kind.
I leave you with my favorite poem by Mary Oliver: I Worried!
I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?
Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?
Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,
Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
Daniel Tipton, Four Seasons Chaplain
I saw a tweet recently where someone wrote: I hope season 2 of 2020 is better than season 1! I felt that in my soul! This has been the hardest 4 months for many of us. We have all altered how we live and relate to the world around us. We have all struggled to adjust to a new normal in hopes that our old normal or some piece of it will return. We have all found ourselves wondering what might come next or how long we will have to endure this crisis. I am hopeful that what comes as a result of our deep grief is a restoration of life, not so much a resurrection of the old, but a restoration to something better.
We chaplains often use metaphors like “life is a journey” and “this is just a season” to help navigate the ebbing and flowing of life. We imagine life as a journey because we can only see metaphorically just as far as the road meets the sky. What lies beyond will only be known as we continue to walk. The same goes with the thought of these circumstances being a season, a preset segment of time wherein we can measure progress by the circumstances around us. We understand winter as a season because it begins with change and ends with change. We understand planting season leads to harvest season, that the stillness of winter leads to the bursting of life in spring.
Every season has something in it that we need: rest of winter, newness of spring, washing rains of summer, and the gathering goodness of autumn. What is difficult right now, especially for me, is understanding what this season of life is giving me. I don’t know what I could possibly need from a season of isolation from friends or a fear of terrible illness infecting those I love. What possible good is there in a season of hardship and fear?
As a chaplain I’m often asked difficult questions. The hardest part of my job is not answering them. Is there a God? Is there life after death? Will I be forgiven? Will my family be ok without me? What will I see? These questions are as impossible to answer as the questions about why we are experiencing this virus outbreak. I cannot give you an answer. I can, however, sit here with you in your grief as a fellow pilgrim on the journey, just as confused and hurt by the season at hand. I can join you in your lament. I can sing the songs of mourning. I can hold your (metaphorical) hand and heart.
Loneliness and isolation is real. We are all broken and solidarity is our only cure. The hardest thing we can do is look past our own needs and take inventory of our neighbors’ brokenness. Do you dare look across the fence? Do you dare look into their open windows? Do you dare look and take notice? Do you see? Will you see?
Look, listen, learn. Your neighbors are hurting. Your friends are lonely. Your co-workers are in need of an encouraging word. “I see you!” “I love you!” “I will hold you in my heart!”
I don’t have an answer for why it hurts. I have no answers about how long it will last. I have no solutions to offer other than myself and my solidarity. I will make the effort to see you fully. I will walk at your side as we both discover our paths ahead. I will listen to your fears and will tell you mine. I will affirm that you have the right to question everything. Everything is awful and we are not ok. We are broken and battered, tired and weak. However, I cannot fix you and you cannot fix me. We deserve so much more than that…
I leave you with these words by Cairo McFarlane and her poem “If you are broken I cannot fix you”
If you are broken I cannot fix you.
I can hold your pieces within my bones and Atriums
Until you learn to piece yourself whole again.
One by one,
I will hand them to you.
And I will love you wholly.
And I will love you without judgement.
I will love you sans peur.
And I will love you.
Remembering is imperative.
Remembering you are loved,
in all your brokenness,
you are loved.
May you never even once forget.
Broken or not
You are Loved.
Daniel Tipton, Four Seasons Chaplain
After I finished up weekly paperwork this morning I noticed something felt off. So I ate my lunch…at 10:30 a.m. That wasn’t it. I drank some water. Then a Diet Coke. Still, not quite it. The only thing left was a Reese’s Easter Egg. Nope. That didn’t quite fix it. So I made a few phone calls and did a little work. Still, I just couldn’t shake the feeling that something was off.
I took a break and decided to take Parker for a walk. We walked around the neighborhood for about 15 minutes and enjoyed the sunshine. She pulled with excitement at the squirrels. We played fetch for a few minutes and came back inside. I noticed Parker didn’t go straight to her usual spot to rest. As I got back to work I noticed Parker standing in the kitchen near Sadie’s bed. Sadie is my 17 year old beagle/corgi mix. She’s blind and deaf, arthritic, and has a number of health problems. She and Parker have an odd relationship. Parker has always wanted Sadie to play with her. Sadie has always wanted Parker to leave her alone.
So there was Parker, standing over Sadie and looking at me through the baby gate. Parker is big enough to jump the gate when she wants. It’s there to keep Sadie in the kitchen in case she has an accident and to keep her from bumping into walls. Sadie really just sleeps all day and never moves off her bed. Parker never really interacts with Sadie unless I’m taking them outside. So it was unsettling when I saw Parker just staring at me, standing over Sadie.
Then I realized the source of my uneasiness. Earlier this morning I called the vet to schedule Parker’s annual shots for May. While I was on the phone I asked the vet tech about Sadie’s health and asked for advice as it is getting close to time for Sadie to be given that final gift of comfort. She’s dying slowly. I know that she’s hurting. I know she has no quality of life. So I scheduled a vet visit for Saturday to talk about euthanasia. The vet gave me the details about what would take place if we decided it was time and gave me the option of making Saturday the day I send her across that rainbow bridge or wait a while longer. I decided it was time. We will send her on the next part of her journey in peace.
I did all of this from a rational perspective. It was almost transactional. We talked about fees and processes. We talked about the symptoms and facts of life. Then I hung up and went back to work making patient care phone calls, charting, and care planning. It’s Thursday and there’s a lot to do.
That’s when I began to feel unsettled. Now that I am looking back I can see that Parker was feeling unsettled too. When we came back from our walk she climbed onto Sadie’s bed and has been sleeping beside her for the last couple of hours. It’s almost like she knows something is changing. Maybe she picked up on my energy change. Maybe she intuitively knows Sadie is sick and weak and ready. Maybe she just has the capacity to love beyond my understanding.
That’s exactly what Parker is doing. She’s loving her sister. She’s standing in solidarity with her sister, making sure that she knows she won’t have to die alone. Maybe I’m just deep in my feels right now and all of this is just me looking for peace and comfort in anything I can grab onto. But I’m going with the thought that it’s just love. Either Parker needing to love Sadie or me needing to be loved.
Whatever the case may be love is on my mind today. Love is one of those things that many of us talk about giving others. We love our families, our pets, our partners, our children, our friends. We love patients and families and coworkers. I can remember the first time I said “I love you” to someone. I remember the last time I told my grandmother I loved her. I remember the last time I told a friend she was loved. I remember every time I’ve ever verbally said “I love you” to another being. It’s not something I just throw out there willy-nilly. When I say it, I mean it.
What I also remember with great detail is every time I’ve heard someone tell me they loved me. Those are precious. I remember each and every time because it always came as a shock that it was being said. I always get uncomfortable hearing someone say they love me. Why? Are you sure? Have you been drinking? I’ve never really felt worthy of love and as much as I crave it from others I still feel like it's undeserved and definitely unreliable. It’s part of my life work to be trusting of others when they say “I love you.”
I’m sure I’m not alone here. I see you out there loving the world with gentleness and compassion. You suffer with the vulnerable and dying. You grieve with those who mourn. You invest all of your heart and soul into your care. But have you considered that you, too, are worthy of gentleness and compassion? Have you considered that you, too, deserve someone to sit with you in solidarity? Have you considered that you, too, deserve someone to invest themselves in your wellbeing? Have you considered you are deserving of another’s heart and soul?
It's ok if this makes you uncomfortable. Learning to feel deserving of another’s love is life long work. When my fiancé and I first moved in together I tried to do everything myself. I made dinner, I cleaned the house, I cared for the dogs. I pay the bills and manage the household mostly on my own. I’m independent that way. I don’t’ feel deserving of assistance. And I realized that assistance, that help, felt like love.
I do remember, however, the first time I truly trusted my fiancé loved me. On the morning of September 11, 2017 I woke up early for my first day of orientation at Four Seasons. I had just moved to Asheville 3 weeks before and we were still setting up our first home together. That morning, as I made my way nervously through my closet trying to find the right outfit for my first day of work I smelled coffee brewing from the kitchen. I didn’t make coffee…My fiancé, who was still sleeping, had set the pot up to start just in time for me to grab a cup and rush down I-26 to Flat Rock.
Every workday morning since (with a few exceptions of course) I have woken up to a fresh pot of coffee. There’s no ceremony. There’s no romantic musical score. There are no grand proclamations from gilded balconies. It’s just warm and dark roast love swirling in a cup, and I deserve it! I don’t demand it. I don’t expect it. I don’t throw a tantrum when I don’t get it. But I do deserve it. I deserve it because it is the object behind my existence. It is the purpose for which I came into this world. It is the reason I am created.
I deserve love. You deserve love.
As I write this, Parker is still loving her big sister. She’ll get up soon and come drop her ball in my lap because she knows I deserve love too. When my fiancé gets home she’ll jump for joy and snuggle up on the couch and love him too. It’s what she does. It’s who she is. It’s what she deserves in return.
All of this love talk reminds me of a poem by artist Frida Kahlo. I leave you with her words about love:
You deserve a love that wants you disheveled,
with everything and all the reasons that wake you
up in haste, with everything and the demons that
won’t let you sleep.
You deserve a love that makes you feel secure,
able to take on the world when it walks behind you,
that feels your embraces are perfect for its skin.
You deserve a love that wants to dance with you,
that goes to paradise every time it looks into your eyes
and never gets tired of studying your expressions.
You deserve a love that listens when you sing,
that supports you when you act like a fool,
that respects your freedom;
that accompanies you when you fly
and isn’t afraid to fall.
You deserve a love that takes away the lies
and brings you illusion, coffee, and poetry.
Love and light,
Daniel Tipton, Four Seasons Chaplain
Have you ever wondered what type of superhero you’d be if you were suddenly empowered with some super ability? I have! And I already posses my super power in abundance!!!! No it’s not invisibility or super strength. Those are cool and all! I mean who wouldn’t want to be a Superman or Wonder Woman?!?!? I don’t mind those types of super powers, I guess they’re ok if that’s all you got! However!!! I’ve got a superpower no amount of kryptonite can weaken: The Power to Be Awkward in Any Given Situation!!!!! I know, looking at me you might think to yourself “hey, that guy looks like one of the cool kids!” Sure, I’ve got the look but it’s mostly a disguise, like Clark Kent’s glasses and slicked back hair! But one quick twirl or blink of an eye POOF!!!! AWKWARDO IS HERE!!!!!!!!
I’ve always been awkward. I’ve never really had a lot of self-confidence when it comes to socializing, friend making, dating, or any interpersonal relationship that requires tact or grace. Everything I’m able to accomplish now that remotely resembles a functioning adult is carefully crafted appearance and general miming of what I see others do! I have no idea what I’m doing!!!!
Once in while I trip over success. I’ll have a good day that on the surface looks like I’ve got all my ducks in a row. Truth is, I don’t even know what my ducks look like let alone where my pond is! Most of the time I’m just tripping across my own awkwardness hoping nobody looks to closely at just how awkward I really am!
I know you’ve seen it! It comes in the form of a misplaced joke, a glance that lasts two seconds too long and becomes a stare, or the inevitable “you too” when the teenager at McDonald’s says “enjoy your meal.” Ugh! The worst is when I get angry or frustrated and I forget how to speak English. This is where Awkwardo shines!!! Not only do I forget how to form words but my hillbilly East Tennessee accent gets mixed in and nothing sound remotely intelligible. Mix in an ungodly amount of useless trivia, song lyrics, and movie quotes from the 90’s and you’ve got one heck of a recipe for AWKWARDO to appear!
I’m only half kidding. But I’ve noticed lately that my anxiety levels are higher than normal. That means my self critique is also higher! Every night it seems I relive most of the day’s work calls and conversations. Did I say something stupid to that caregiver? Was my hair out of place during that zoom? Did I sound like an idiot when trying to explain myself to everyone on that call? Can they see my nose hairs? Do I really sound like that?
My other super power is that of empathy. I am an empath. That simply means I can read the energy of those around me. I literally FEEL you! I can read a room and know almost instantly and intuitively how everyone else is experiencing the moment. This means if the room tends to be anxious I can become distracted and let my reactivity dictate my behavior. If the room is peaceful and calm, I will reflect stillness. It all depends, like I wrote yesterday, on how integrated I am at the moment with the truth. What this means is it’s easy for to become overwhelmed by the enormity of the world around me.
It is exhausting to have so much feeling all the time. Sometimes, it takes a lot of determined concentration to distinguish between my feelings and those of others I’ve encountered during the day. When you work with death and dying as much as we do, the temptation to carry another’s grief with us and add it to our own is huge! It almost feel callous and uncaring to leave their baggage and their troubles and their stress there in the room and not carry it home mixed in with our own mess.
This super power of caring is why each and every one of you show up everyday and exemplify our CBRITER values. Each of you excel at Compassion, Balance, Respect, Integrity, Teamwork, Excellence and Resilience! These values indelibly mark your work. You are the standard bearer for quality end of life care!!! And that my friend, is your superpower! And, that my dear sweet friend, is your (our) kryptonite! We have such a strong commitment to our service to the most vulnerable in our community that sometimes we reach too far, dive too deeply, hold on to too much of what others are experiencing. We cannot distinguish our grief from the grief of our patients and families. This is why we experience caregiver compassion fatigue. Are hands are smaller than we thought, our skins are thinner than we imagined; our hearts are fleshy and vulnerable and easily broken.
Jewish religious leaders have a tradition where scholars of the Hebrew scriptures write commentary on sacred texts and laws. The collection of these writings is called the Talmud. One scholar wrote this in regards to the Hebrew text of Micah 6:8: "Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.” The original Hebrew text asks of the reader “What does the Lord require of you?” We ask ourselves this every day! What does today require of me? How much of myself must I invest for the wellbeing of all others in the room? Quickly, the enormity of the need around us surpasses the grasp of our hands and we stumble, weaken, and eventually break under the pressure. The Talmud, however, does not interpret this text to say “give all of yourself as a sacrifice to the needs of another.” Instead, the Talmud implores us to “walk humbly, now”, “do justly, now”, “love mercy, now” We are not expected to complete the work alone nor are we expected to complete the work fully in our lifetime.
We are not free to ignore the grief around us. We are not capable of even trying. But we must remember that it is not our burden to bear alone. It is an enormous thing to feel another’s pain. It is a burden that must be born together in community, in solidarity not solitude. You have an immeasurable gift at your disposal in the colleagues who join your ranks of super heroes, a sort of Justice League if you will of empaths who will help you carry the enormity of the world’s grief and eventually, help you set it down so your hands are free to attend to your own.
I leave you with these words from theologian Frederick Buechner: “Wherever people love each other and are true to each other and take risks for each other, God is with them and they are doing God’s will.” There are no other people I’d like to love and take risks with or be awkward with than all y’all!
Love and Light!
Daniel Tipton, Four Seaons Chaplain
I woke up to a reminder that today is my dog Parker Paisley’s official adoption day.
Two years ago we made her an official part of the Tipton-Andersen household. She woke me up at 6:30 a.m. with her favorite ball ready to play! Easter candy is now 50% off. (Starburst jelly beans and Reese’s eggs are my favorites) I bought new shoes online two weeks ago. They finally arrived today. They’re fancy and I got them at 1/3 the original price. I love a good deal! I did some joint telehealth visits with Kaitlyn and Brandon today. A patient smiled. One fell asleep while Kaitlyn sang. One even said I was good looking. These are just a few of the good things that happened today. But I don’t feel “good”…and that has me worried.
It's part of my personality to be cautious of the world around me. I am untrusting. I am ever vigilant for the next disaster, even on good days like today. (Enneagram Type 6) When I’m deep in my stress I become suspicious of others. When I’m in harmony, I’m the loyal and supportive of the team. I say these things not in judgement of them but in affirmation that they are part of me. Knowing these traits make up the bulk of my reactivity and response (ability) to the world around me helps me navigate tricky days like today. Why do I look at all these lovely things with one suspicious eye darting around the corner?
This is how I protect myself from the bad days. It is a safety mechanism I learned and is how I survive. It isn’t something I can change, per se, nor is it something I need to change. It’s part of me like which hand I write with or the color of my eyes or how much curl is in my hair or which sock I put on first when I get dressed. It’s the left one by the way. My personality, my 6-ness, is a gift I gave myself when all else failed. What I must do now is learn to use it and employ it; to recognize when I’m being sucked into my stressful reactivity and make better choices.
This is called “response-ability.” Only when I am fully integrated and healthy, when I am true to myself and others, can I be fully response-able, empowered and harmonious. Maybe I’ll always be a little suspicious, eyeing the corners for the imaginary threat. Maybe I’ll always be waiting for the other shoe to drop. But I have learned to be healthier, more integrated and more self-aware. Sure, feelings still sneak up on me and I might become defensive or angry or sneak off and isolate in my Hobbit hole. Most of the time though I navigate the broken and fearful world around me with grace and fortitude.
The key to our ultimate survival is understanding who we are at our deepest levels. Have you spent any time recently getting to know yourself? Have you looked bravely at your truth? Have you loved the "you" you want to hide? It’s ok if the thought of self-discovery scares you. Navel gazing and introspection can feel like a luxury in times of crisis. Some of you may even feel like it’s a waste of time or self-indulgent.
There is a concept in spiritual caregiving called “unconditional positive regard.” Chaplains and spiritual navigators make every effort to regard (receive/esteem/observe) others with an unconditional (without restriction or qualification) positivity (affirmation of worthiness). The hardest person we offer this concept to is ourselves. We often meet ourselves in the mirror with shame, contempt, or blatant disregard. The hardest person to love is often the one you spend most of your time with. That person is you!
A mentor of mine once told me he had an exercise of observation he does with couples in therapy. He tells couples to practice vulnerability by standing nude in front of a mirror with their intimate partner. For this to be safe, both of you should be nude, both should be consenting and both of you should feel safe. The idea is for one partner to go from head to toe and acknowledge or point out the parts they see in the mirror that the like. When finished, their partner will affirm those places. Then, gently and with loving intent, ask about the places their partner skipped or overlooked and ask “why don’t you like…?” The observing partner is expected to affirm why they believe those places too are worthy of love.
The goal here is to see and be seen. To know and be known. To accept and be accepted. It is hard, vulnerable work to know yourself and be known fully by another. The chaos and disorientation we are experiencing only enhances and sharpens preexisting personalities and behaviors. There is now no better time to stand in the mirror and get to know yourself. You might even fall in love with something you’ve long neglected. You might discover within you an invisible strength pushing back at whatever it is the world has pushed upon you.
My advice today is to thine own self be true. We do that through discovery. We do that by learning, affirming, and acknowledging truth. Find a personality inventory. The Enneagram, MBTI, Management by Strengths and many other inventories can give you a glimpse behind the curtain. As a word of caution, however, these are only glimpses. They are tools we use to build. They are only useful when used correctly and astutely. Getting to know the truth, integrating that truth into your living and maintaining balance and unconditional positive regard for the self is an artform that must be practiced, nurtured, learned. Be patient, you are still becoming.
I leave you with this thought, author unknown:
They say love is blind, I disagree.
Infatuation is blind, love is all-seeing
Love is seeing all the flaws and blemishes
and accepting them. Love is accepting the
bad habits and mannerism, and working
around them. Love is recognizing all the
fears and insecurities, and knowing your role
is to comfort. Love is working through all
the challenges and painful times.
Infatuation is fragile and will shatter when
life is not perfect.
Love is strong and it strengthens
because it is real.
Love and Light!
Daniel Tipton, Four Seasons Chaplain
Again, it’s Monday…I think it’s still April…It still feels like 2020…I’m pretty sure I’m still Daniel…I was able to get up after a long night of stormy weather, get dressed, make a pot of coffee…I filled up my calendar with lots of wonderful things to accomplish ahead of me…And now, I don’t know where to start.
Have you ever heard of the existential term “ennui”? Ennui is defined as sense of listlessness or dissatisfaction usually due to a lack of occupation or excitement. As I look at the column of blue on my Monday calendar I know I don’t have a lack of occupation. There’s plenty of work to occupy my day. Am I just tired? Preoccupied? Lazy?
Maybe I’m having a crisis of identify. In our Staff Resiliency Zoom meeting sponsored by Vibrant for Life and Dr. Burpee, we talked about grief, specifically our personal grief, as a result of our current pandemic isolation and all the changes and challenges it has brought on. It came to mind today that what I grieve most these days is the chaplain I was before all of this started. I grieve no longer touching the hands of the dying. I grieve no longer holding sacred spaces that connect fragile humanity and insoluble eternity. I grieve not being me.
Everything is different. Even those of you still in the field providing nursing and personal care are touching (or not touching) patients differently. Gowns, gloves, and masks create just enough distance to make it feel like we aren’t being true to who we know ourselves to be. We are experiencing a collective crisis of identify. Our very existence and the truths we know about ourselves and each other are being tested, strained, and called into question. That is enough to bring on a collective ennui.
If you are old enough to remember the election cycle of 1992 between George HW Bush and Bill Clinton you might remember third party candidate Ross Perot. Less memorable was Perot’s running mate, Admiral James Stockdale. Admiral Stockdale was famously lampooned during the election for a debate flub where he tried to make light of the fact that he was an unknown entity when juxtaposed between Vice President Quayle and Senator Gore. He famously (or infamously) said “Who am I? What am I doing here?” during his opening remakes in a debate. The problem was he appeared too convincing in his existential questioning, almost as if he really didn’t know the answers!!!
I have asked myself these same questions almost daily since mid-March. I came home from a week’s stay in the hospital after nearly bleeding to death in a gas station bathroom. (If that doesn’t make one question everything, then nothing will) I tried to keep up with the changing working conditions and policies taking shape in the week that followed while I recovered at home. By the time I returned to work I had a deficit of information to overcome that some of you got to process in real time. I was lost.
In the days since we’ve all caught up to working from home or with limited exposure and risk. We’ve caught up to policy change number infinity and are operating at optimal efficiency. Yet, the ennui persists and the feeling that something isn’t right and I’m off balance and just not sure who I am any more, remains.
I’m having to be a chaplain in a different way. I can’t touch the dying. I can still comfort them. I can’t stand quietly in the corner of the room and represent the infinite among the finite. I can still be a loving voice on a phone calling to offer love and support or a grainy face on an iPad or tablet. I can’t provide communion or anoint the sick with holy oil or facilitate rituals. I can be creative and dream of new ways to be present, I can find myself again in places where I am uncomfortable, unfamiliar, and unproven.
Poet Caroline White writes “You will find yourself in all of the places you are afraid to look.” So, it’s ok to be afraid to look for yourself in this brave, new world. It’s ok to be unsure of how to do your job or to exercise your skills. It’s ok to be a little shaky and little under par when it comes to practicing new skills, new practices, new artforms for care. It’s ok to ask yourself “who am I, what am I doing here?” Have you considered that you are growing? Have you considered that you are becoming bigger, better, stronger than you were yesterday? Have you considered that this is really an extension of the truth within you and not a redefining of your identify? Have you considered that you are just now learning to use a non-dominate trait like writing with a different hand?
You are growing. You are becoming, not less of who you are, but more! You are becoming more fully integrated and familiar with your true self. It reminds me of what Margery Williams writes in The Velveteen Rabbit: “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to those who don’t understand.”
Love and Light!
Daniel Tipton, Four Seasons Chaplain
I’m naturally a creature of habit. I love my routines.
They keep me safe, on track, and on task. Every work day, my alarm goes off, I open up my phone to check my calendar, I take the dogs out for a walk, I feed them, and I get dressed for the day. I pour a cup of coffee, watch about 30 minutes of the morning news, and eat breakfast. I’m a man with a plan, and I like to stick to it! One of the first lessons I learned in my seminary church internship, however, was that my need for a plan and the needs of my congregation might not always align. This small Kentucky church taught me that no matter what the bulletin says was next, the leaky roof dripping on the communion table or the swarm of lady bugs on the pulpit might not be so inclined to follow MY plan. I had to quickly learn to bend without breaking.
Over the last few weeks my routine has been disrupted. In fact, 2020 has been an entirely disruptive year for me. My fiance’ fell New Year’s Day and tore his ACL. We have both had surgeries, hospitalizations, and many sleepless nights. Now, with continued calls for a longer period of social distancing to flatten the curve of this pandemic, we’ve had to reschedule our June wedding to August. I don’t want to get married in August. It’s hot and gross and, it’s August. But my plans, my beautiful, glorious plans…well, they’re just not working out.
I now start my day much the same as before. I still get up and look at my calendar. I still drink a cup of coffee while watching the news. I still take the dogs out for their walks. What’s changed is really small compared to what could change if I were to be exposed to this Covid-19 virus. So I accommodate and I get to work at making new plans. And then the Zoom meetings start. New admissions pile up in my secure messages. Everybody wants something and I’m pulled in ten different directions and it’s only 9 am. I’m tired!
I know this isn’t unique to me. I know each and every one of us had/have plans that are being disrupted by this pandemic. We are not where we thought we’d be. That, my dear friend, brings us grief. Grief is the result of disruption. What we are all feeling right now is searing loss. We have been knocked off balance and our best laid plans have been ripped from under us. So, we grieve. We grieve the loss of control. We grieve our loss of independence. We grieve our loss of agency.
There’s been an injury that we have collectively felt since this pandemic altered our way of living. Our collective trauma has not only caused us personal grief but has disoriented us from how we planned and imagined our professional work. We grieve the way we once cared for our patients and families and coworkers as much as we grieve the loss of those personal and familial plans and dreams. As much as I might grieve the wedding I’ve planned for over a year I also grieve how differently I must now do my job.
Deep in grief, it becomes harder and harder for us to maintain our resiliency. Thinking on our feet is difficult when the trauma is still fresh and the disorientation still has us spinning. Being creative, innovative, and passionately present takes more energy than many of us have left to expend. So it’s ok, my dear sweet friend, if you are feeling tender and lost. It’s ok to mourn the loss of your best laid plans, your hopes and dreams. It’s ok to mourn. It’s ok to grieve. It is the cost of love; the love you had for your life before this pandemic disrupted and disoriented us all.
In some ways it feels like I’m not giving or doing or providing enough. I don’t feel like I’m enough. I have a limited amount of energy. I have a limited reach. My hands that I’ve employed in healing now feel like they have been tied behind my back. It even, almost, (maybe even more than I want to admit) feels like I’m injuring more than I’m healing. I cannot seem to find the balance between healing myself and healing you. So I feel burned out. I feel fatigued. I feel ineffective and small and I feel like giving up.
You and I have found ourselves in an impossible situation. So, it’s ok if you feel as ineffective, tired, or small as I do. It’s ok if the world is still spinning and you can’t seem to find solid ground. It’s ok if your grief sneaks up on you and drips out of the corners of your eye. It’s ok to grieve. Have you allowed yourself to cry? Have you allowed yourself to be angry? Have you allowed yourself a moment to look around and take inventory of exactly how you are feeling? Have you told anyone how you feel?
Yesterday someone asked me how I was doing and how I’m taking care of myself. I made a joke about my unnecessarily large jar of JIF peanut butter being all I need right now. That wasn’t true. I need a break. I need a hug (and you know I don’t do hugs). I need to laugh with my friends. I need to feel normal again. I need to grieve. I need to take a walk and work out the kinks in my back and in my heart. I need wise counsel from trusted friends. I need to cry. I need a plan…a plan to survive, to reorient myself to a new normal. I need hope.
There’s a song we sang often in chapel while in seminary by gospel singer Hezekiah Walker. The lyrics for the chorus of his song “I Need You to Survive” are as follows and I hope they resonate with you on some level:
It is his will, that every need be supplied (You’re important)
You are important to me (Yes you are, I need you)
I need you to survive (You are important to me)
You are important to me, (I need you to survive) I need you to survive
I hope you hear the double meaning of the phrase “I need you to survive.” I need you for my survival. I also need for you to survive. Let us then supply one another’s needs. You are important to me!
Love and Light!
Daniel Tipton, Four Seasons Chaplain
Ok…so True Confession time: As a Christian minister and an ecumenical chaplain I help people across the spiritual spectrum with their emotional and spiritual wellbeing at every stage of life. I’ve been present at the births (and deaths) of babies, at the death (and birthing) of the aged and everything in between. One of the greatest joys in my work is creating sacred spaces, even in the most difficult of experiences, where the divine comes closer and connections are made stronger.
One of the most sacred things I do is assist my care-receivers in creating spaces for these kinds of interactions and deep connections. Sometimes these spaces take the form of ancient Christian rituals like anointing the sick and dying, celebrating the Eucharist, Baptisms, or the laying on of hands. Sometimes they look Jewish and involve the reciting of Shema or a blessing of the dead known as the Mourner’s Kaddish. Sometimes they’re less formal and have no structured ancient words. Sometimes these sacred spaces take the form of a word of affirmation or validation and the reminder that all shall be well. It can take the form of reading inspirational poetry, admiring beautiful works of art, or sitting in silence in a garden listening to the flowers as they speak their unbiased truth. These are all spiritual practices that ground us, center us, and connect us to something outside of ourselves.
So…like I said, true confession…One might assume that as a chaplain I have a structured and regular spiritual practice. To be honest, I find it hard to maintain with any regularity a spiritual discipline like daily prayer, reading of sacred texts, or meditation. My mind wanders and I just end up feeling guilty, as if I’m a failure at being holy or circumspect or whatever one might consider the goal of such personal devotions. I don’t journal. I don’t spend countless hours on my knees in prayer. I don’t sit on a yoga mat and chant the ohms.
What I do, however, is sit on the sofa while watching mindless TV with my dog at my side. I rub her ears and she snuggles in close. This is a sacred space. I make dinner for my fiancé and we sit together while watching Jeopardy and during the commercials we talk about our days. This is a sacred space. I call my mother every evening to check on her and every weekend we spend an hour together on the phone while we drink coffee and catch up on family gossip. This is a sacred space.
Barbara Brown Taylor, an Episcopal priest and author/speaker, wrote in her book An Altar in the World “Anything can become a spiritual practice once you approach it that way-once you let it bring you to your knees and show you what is real, including who you really are, who other people are, and how near God can be when you have lost your way.” Spiritual practices and sacred spaces are not a one size fits all. Whatever you do that give you peace, that illuminates the truth of who you are and who I am and who we are in relationship with one another is sacred work. If you find the Divine and your own personal integrity, you have found a spiritual discipline.
So it’s ok if you cannot pray like a saint. It’s ok if you can’t walk, as Mary Oliver says in her poem Wild Geese, “on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.” So before you begin to judge yourself too harshly and consider yourself degenerate, unholy, or unwashed, have you considered that you are already THE authority on your own spiritual wellbeing? Have you considered that the hobby that keeps you from going insane and burning down the house at night is YOUR connection to the holy? Have you thought, even briefly, of how those little things you do for self-care; those bubble baths and sing-alongs, those board games with your family, those long (or short) walks around your neighborhood-all those things that keep you healthy and alive-are all sacred moments where you and I and the Divine meet in the liminal spaces and are, however briefly, united as one in the communion of saints?
Today, regardless of who or how you worship (or don’t for that matter) I encourage you to find something sacred that draws you out of yourself and connects you with someone or something bigger. Smile at a stranger. Leave the quarter in your buggy at Aldi. Don’t hoard toilet paper. Tell someone they’re doing a good job. Remind yourself that you matter. So take notice of all the things that connect you, that inspire you, or bring you to the center of your truth.
Love and Light…
Daniel Tipton, Four Seasons Chaplain
Before chaplaincy became my career of choice I was a substance abuse counselor in a clinic that treated adults with addictions to opiates like pain killers and heroin. It was hard work. Most of my days were spent telling my clients that they have a choice to make to remain sober, a choice they have to make every moment of the day. The resistance I got was astounding! Every day I head every imaginable excuse for illicit substance use. Most of them were reasonable. Most of them made sense. Most of them were valid reasons for the initial addiction. What I struggled with was getting my clients to realize that every time they used their substance of choice, regardless of the historical circumstances that led them to using, it was a choice they made.
So you can imagine my shock and dismay when, after eating nearly half of my body weight in Cheetos and Diet Coke, I caught myself blaming the pandemic and my present confinement to this hovel I call home for binge eating all of emergency snacks.
I was shooketh! I had to call BS on myself. I didn’t eat a whole bag of Cheetos because there’s a deadly virus lurking around and every sneeze or cough could be a harbinger of my inevitable death. I ate a bag of Cheetos because I LIKE CHEETOS!!!!! I ate them because of the way they crunch. I ate them for the way the salt burns the creases of my mouth. I ate them because I WANTED them.
Fear, anxiety, anticipatory grief, and the inevitable push toward the inevitable end of all things (i.e. death of all living things) are ALWAYS going to threaten to undo us. We fear a lack of control over our environment but often use the illusion of our lack of control as an excuse for poor judgment. Every moment of every day we make choices. Either I will eat an apple when I get hungry or a bag of Cheetos. How I make that choice is definitely informed by the stressors inundating me from every side. However, that does not mean I have NO control. I can control my choices and how I respond to the stressors around me. I have agency over more than I imagine.
No I cannot control an invisible virus. No, I cannot control the amount of toilet paper my neighbor buys. No, I cannot control how incorrectly EVERYBODY in the grocery store is wearing their masks or how they keep touching their phone and their credit cards and their kids with those nasty contaminated gloves. But I do have control over how I wear my mask. I do have control over how I treat my neighbor by not stockpiling resources I don’t really need. I do have control over how I live and relate to others. I have control over how I wash my hands and wear my PPE and treat others as precious and worthy of love and life.
As I write this I’m reminded of the first part of the Serenity Prayer that asks for divine intervention in identifying the difference between what can be controlled and what cannot. This prayer reaches out to something bigger than us for serenity and courage: serenity to accept that which is beyond our control, courage to enact changes where we are able. The most important part of this prayer, however, is the imploration for wisdom. The wisdom to know the difference between what is and is not in our power to control is something of a gift or a skill that must be nurtured and practiced. Wisdom is more than just knowing. It’s the ability to set actionable goals for responding to the stressors in our lives rather than knee-jerk style reactivity. Wisdom, as it is often said, is knowledge put in practice.
So it’s ok if you feel like eating a whole bag of Cheetos while you sit on the couch watching Tiger King on Netflix. It’s also ok if all you can really do is take a half a step back and choose to only eat half the bag today. Tomorrow, maybe you will feel stronger and only need one episode and a handful of chips to get you through. Every day you choose to be responsible for your wellbeing you are setting yourself up for stronger and wiser days ahead. So before you just give in to your drug, err, I mean, snack of choice, retreat behind the walls of resignation, before you give up hope: have you considered that you might not actually be powerless right now? Stop what you are doing and take an inventory. Look at what you have control over. You have agency and power over more than you think. You’re still breathing aren’t you? You’re heart is still pumping blood and your body is still warm and teaming with activity. You’re still just as full of agency as you’ve ever bee. You are just as much you as before: free to make choices that give life to yourself and to others. Your heart is still capable of love. Your soul is still capable of touching another’s, even in your physical distance. Your hands are able to work and create and comfort just as they have always done. Your feet can dance and your heart can sing. You are the you-est you you have ever been!!!!
So, wash off that Cheeto dust. Start today, right this very moment, with choosing to be physically, emotionally, and spiritually true to yourself. Right now, and every moment that follows, is an opportunity to thrive.
And when all else fails you, remember this: knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad….
Love and Light!!!
Daniel Tipton, Four Seasons Chaplain
I have always thought Tuesdays were hardest day of the week. There are still too many days between Tuesday and the weekend. As I sit here at my makeshift work station aka my dining room table I take note of how my physical body is awakening to this soon to be rainy Tuesday. I notice that my legs are a little achy. My eyes are tired from all the screen time I’m getting. My desk chair doesn’t quite fit the height of my dining room table so my elbows are in a funny position as I type. My back pillow isn’t doing its job. It’s chilly in here. And apparently I cannot be pleased today.
The way in which my body takes up physical space today is very much a Tuesday kind of vibe. Not quite close enough to the relief of the weekend and too stationary and confined to really burn off any kinetic energy building up and forming anxiety deep within my gut. A friend from seminary just texted that she felt anxious because she was late for work end of her couch because she spent too much time on the rest end watching Good Morning America. What exactly have we become?
It's obvious that our routines have been disrupted. Those of us working from home have had to adapt to a whole new way of fitting our physical bodies into spaces designed for living, not for working. For those of you still in the field you too have had a disruption of your routines. Wearing masks is a physical barrier to emotional and spiritual connections our nurses and aids provide to our patients and families. The incessant use of hand sanitizer and hand soap has dried out your hands to the point of touching a patient physically hurts. You get in the car, don your PPE, walk in the facility or home, walk back to the car, doff your PPE (in the proper order of course) and drive on down the road to the next one. It’s enough to make the whole body feel like an early Tuesday morning: too far from the weekend, too much let yet to do.
It’s ok to break the routines we’ve settled into. The necessities of our current experiences have created work arounds and patches to keep up the patient care we pride ourselves in providing. So not only does our mental and emotional wellbeing take a toll, our bodies experience these changes too. So, it’s expected that we feel like we’re working twice as hard as usual. Our bodies are tired, our souls are tired.
It’s ok if you’re a few minutes late to the dining room table or the work end of the couch. How about changing things up for 5 minutes today? What I mean by that is “How have you purposely moved in a way that isn’t related to work or rest?” I’m talking about intentional movement. No, I didn’t say exercise. That’s just rude. What I’m asking is when was the last you time you moved your body, your whole body, to some music. I’m talking about loud, soul moving, toe tapping, whole body moving music!!! Turn it on, turn it up and take 5 minutes to move! Even if you’re in the car. Take a break from the routine, move your body and your soul. It might be Tuesday, but it’s a Saturday night dance party right there in the living room or the front seat of your car.
So hang in there…the body does indeed keep the score of our collective traumas. Our physical selves are just as important to care for as our emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Dance then like a 3 year old with a handful of animal crackers wearing their favorite sassy sunglasses standing in a rain puddle!
“You've gotta dance like there's nobody watching, Love like you'll never be hurt, Sing like there's nobody listening, And live like it's heaven on earth.” ― William W. Purkey
Love and Light!
Daniel Tipton, Four Seasons Chaplain
Ok….maybe I’m a little premature in my celebration of this week ending as we still have to work through an ever growing IDG list today. I’m thankful that our Growth team is keeping us busy! I really am. Our organization has a unique position to become the provider of choice during these not so normal days and I am confident we will rise to the occasion. But however successful we are and however much we are gleefully growing, I’m still tired y’all!
Maybe it’s the way in which I’m working these days. I’m confident my vitamin D levels are dipping. I’ve made a make shift work station out of my dinning room table and the only light in this part of my apartment comes from the ceiling fan above my head. In fact, I’m opening up the blinds in the living room right now. Maybe those merry little squirrels will keep me company as they race up and down the oak tree just outside my window.
Still, I’m tired. Having very little change in scenery and routine drains me of energy. As an introvert I recharge through alone time. That doesn’t preclude me from needing human contact and interactions. And all you poor extroverts out there are surely feeling drained by your present confinement. We need human interaction, human touch, puppy touch, and kitty touch to really survive. Giving someone a hug, although not recommended during an outbreak like this, is life and energy giving. I think we are able to recharge each other when our hearts are so close together. Unfortunately, hugging and most interactions are forbidden!!!! Don’t do it! So, we will remain tired.
Its ok…it’s ok if all your strength and energy is being rerouted for survival. It’s ok if you are tired and cranky and feel like a 5 year old who hasn’t napped in two days coming off a sugar high. Have you considered you’re not meant to live in isolation? Have you encountered another human being in a way that isn’t work related or survival related i.e. seeing a patient or family member or going to the grocery store? After IDG today, sit down with your phone or computer. Log in to Facebook. Find 5 friends whom you haven’t connected with in a while. Say something nice to them. Find someone who might need reminding that they are loved and they aren’t alone in this world. Maybe, just maybe, you might find that you too are not alone. And maybe that reminder will give you a boost of energy and the feeling of being a little less tired through all of this.
In the immortal words of the most famous “Mommager” Kris Jenner: “You’re doing amazing, sweetie!!!”
Love and Light!!!
Daniel Tipton, Four Seasons Chaplain
How many of y’all hit snooze more than once this morning? I’m not usually one to do that. Once my alarm goes off I’m up! For some reason, I decided to give myself a few more minutes this morning. The sense of urgency I usually have for getting to work seems to be wearing off. My commute is a lot shorter. The coffee is on auto-drip. My gourmet breakfast of cold cereal will still be just as cold in 9 minutes.
I feel like we are living a very surreal existence these days. Someone tweeted they feel like they’re caught in a dichotomy of being in a state of emergency and a state of normalcy. I woke up, checked my email and social media, took the dogs out for their morning walk, showered and got dressed, made a cup of coffee, poured a bowl of cereal, sat down in front of my computer, and synced my Roadnotes. It’s 8 a.m. on Thursday. I do this every day! Then I turned on the news. Maybe that was my first mistake today.
With all the normative things I do every day still in place it feels weird to see the local meteorologist telling me about today’s weather from her basement. It feels weird when Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts talks about a wine cooler siting in the background as she broadcasts from her home. It feels weird to hear that Central Park now has a make shift tent hospital. It feels weird to know that people all over the country are waking up to breakfast, opening computers and tablets and working through emails and settling into today’s work flow while all around us people are sick and dying. The world just does not make sense!!!!! It’s just too surreal.
T.S. Elliot wrote “April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain.” Elliot reminds me of just how surreal springtime really is anyway. Death gives way to life. All those old memories deep in the still earth begin to stir again. While we work as if nothing has changed we know deep down within us that something is different. Something is stirring within us. Being asked to shelter in place when the rain and sunshine beckon us to emerge from our winter slumbers is just plain cruel.
So…It’s ok…It’s ok to hit snooze, to have a second cup of coffee, to eat a bowl of cold cereal; to do the things that make us feel as normal as we can in the most abnormal of times. It’s ok to feel like all these “normal” things are only masking the fact that we feel ineffective and small in the face of what appears to be an insurmountable obstacle. So take a look at your to-do list. Breathe! Breathe again. Ok, one more breath! Now find ONE ITEM that can be accomplished RIGHT NOW. Stop everything else. Do the one thing you can do RIGHT NOW. Respond to that email. Empty the dishwasher. Feed the cat. Good job! Now breathe again! Find another item, get a glass of water, and get to work. It is our new normal and it is surreal and weird and not at all pleasant.
Remember that a fish in a bowl still swims, not because it hopes to escape to freer waters. The fish swims because it trusts its own fins to keep it alive. So, just keep swimming!
Love and Light!
Daniel Tipton, Four Seasons Chaplain
Ok…so today is Wednesday, April 1, 2020…As we enter into the third millennia of this year I’m glad to see spring isn’t delayed. The flowers are popping up from the cold ground. Rain showers are gently cleansing the world around us. Pollen is EVERYWHERE!!!!!!!!! And I am thankful. Even though I’m getting a lot of wary, dirty looks every time I sneeze in Ingles, I know it’s a sure sign that life is returning and the Earth is clothing itself with beauty. Every spring I look forward to seeing the purple buds on the trees that line I-40. In Tennessee, it’s a gentle procession of vibrant colors reminding me that life does indeed (in my best Jeff Goldblum voice) “uh, uh, find a way.”
Apart from the pollen and the constant post nasal drip, Spring always makes me smile. I love color. I love how ostentatious the world around me gets; how audacious is the hope of Spring. Oh you’re tired of the cold and dreary winter? Ok, look at these purples, these pinks, check out how yellow this yellow is!!!! Even the green buds of the trees splashed against the blue sky begins to hurt the eyes when looked at too closely for too long. The colors are magnificent and bright and stand in stark contrast to the dull and dreary winter world from which Spring now bursts into view.
So it’s ok. It’s ok if all you saw yesterday was the dreary rain. It’s ok if all you felt yesterday was the dreary and the drab. Today, as the light lingers a little longer, I hope you take a moment to look for the colors of Spring. Have you showered today? Take a nice warm shower, then get dressed. Get dressed in your brightest colors. Wear your favorite spring time outfit. It doesn’t matter if anyone else will see it. When you brave going out to the grocery store buy a small bouquet of spring flowers and put them in a happy little vase by your desk or work station. Turn on the lights. Open the blinds. Even if it’s overcast outside, the light will find its way in and will warm your heart.
Shine brightly you crazy diamonds! Love and light to each of you!
- Daniel Tipton, Four Seasons Chaplain
I hope you can sense by my excessive use of exclamation points that I’m trying really hard to be energetic and upbeat so y’all don’t see how fragile and absolutely exhausted I am this morning!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! All I can honestly say this morning is if I hear one more commercial start off with the phrase “in these uncertain times” I might throw an empty wine bottle through the TV and curl up on the couch and cry myself to sleep! I’m really not feeling it today. So….what do I need to do? Turn off the TV? Maybe….but I think what I need most right now is some breakfast.
As I start my day I’ve turned on the morning news, made the perfect cup of rich dark coffee, and am enjoying hot bowl of instant oatmeal. For a little protein, I added a scoop of peanut butter. I’m reminded today of how my mother always used food as a way to show love. Every time I visit her I spend the first half hour striking a delicate balance of rejecting her offers of snacks and meals and not rejecting her affections and care for my wellbeing.
If you feel like giving up today that’s ok. Have a snack first. Have you eaten in the past 3 hours? Have a high protein, carb steady small meal. Food is life and eating is an act of hope. Even if you’re not interested in food, try to eat something light and refreshing. Grab a clementine or apple with peanut butter and a large glass of water.
Again, it’s ok. I don’t want to do anything today either. I want to curl up with my pup and watch Netflix. But I’m up, I’ve eaten, and I’m having a second cup of coffee. I have an apple by desk and a glass full of water! I’m going to need all the energy I can get to make it through another commercial reminding me of how we are living ‘In these uncertain times.”
- Daniel Tipton, Four Seasons Chaplain
After talking with some of you over the last week I’ve come to the conclusion that every one of us are tired, overwhelmed, and deep in our personal grief. Times like these will test our resolve. Times like these will drain us of energy and strength. It’s ok if you feel like giving up. It’s ok if your grief is so overwhelming that you just want to curl up in bed with your loves and ride out this crisis in the safety and warmth of your home.
As our work demands us to be there for some of the most vulnerable in our communities, we are torn between taking care of our patients and families and taking care of our own families and ourselves. We will continue to provide excellent care and we will divide ourselves as often as possible between the demands placed upon us. We are professionals who take seriously our calling to care the sick and dying.
As we do that we will exhaust ourselves. We will get tired. We will grieve and we will hurt deep within. We have two options: 1) we quit and let someone else take it on (I know that’s not really who you are or what you are going to do, but it’s still an option) or 2) we will take seriously our personal responsibility to ensure we are as healthy as can be in our mental, spiritual, and physical well being. If you choose option 2 then let’s take a moment to prepare ourselves for a busy week ahead!
Every morning this week I’ll send you an activity to engage in to ground ourselves in something tangible to get us through the day. Remember, advice like this only works if you do it!
For today let’s take on something easy: Drink some water! In fact, drink a lot of water! Dehydration will only make the work we do harder. Remember, you are basically a houseplant with complicated emotions! A little water will go a long way!
- Daniel Tipton, Four Seasons Chaplain