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A Moment of Zen




  At peace. That is what I was feeling. It took me a minute to put my finger on it because serenity is often in short supply for me; a mirage just out of reach that fades as soon as I reach to grab it.

         I always thought it was sort of a tradeoff. I get passion instead of peace and I was more than ok with that. Still, as I breathed in and noticed how relaxed and comfortable I felt in that moment I realized that there is something to be said for inner peace.

        I have run my entire career in this field. Running to the news, running on the floor, running to Long Island and all the while my mind was running too, keeping track of my residents and learning, sometimes painfully, the inner workings of what makes a good caregiver. And make no mistake, that is very important to me. The idea that if we do this right, we are in a constant state of growing and learning.  Ask any seasoned caregiver if they viewed life the same after a year or two on the floor. This is a career that changes you, sometimes for the better sometimes not. The rules and the environment may change, but the very nature of what we do remains the same; we take care of those who cannot care for themselves. I’ve come to know that there is something sacred about that.

       In all of this running and thinking and day to day prioritizing, peace of mind got pushed further and further down on my list of necessities. I only noticed it was missing on the rare occasions when I stumbled onto moments of serenity, followed with fleeting thoughts of “oh! I don’t know what this is but its niiice. I should feel like this more often” and then it was right back to the running.

        Love, loss, frustration, humor, grief, anger, resentment, joy, heartbreak, exhaustion, powerless and empowered at various points, connected, and useful are only a few of the emotions involved in our work. Nowhere on the list is “calm.”  And yet, here I was after a twelve hour shift, perfectly at peace.

          I feel comfortable with my new client. I have slipped into the routine like a favorite pair of jeans. After my first day, I thought ok. This is going to work. It felt like coming home, though it’s private care instead of a facility. There was a familiarity about it and despite the new surroundings, I was in my comfort zone.

       I love that if she wants to take an hour to talk me through how to properly tease her hair because the bigger the hair the closer to God, we can do that. There is no need to rush. I can be on her time frame. I can read to her or just listen. This is a lady with stories and they are my favorite kind of people.

     “I used to be a worrier. Used fret this and that. Never slowed down. Then I had this stroke. That slowed me down. I don’t worry so much anymore.”

       She was only in her fifties when she had her stroke. It hit me like a ton of bricks when she told me that. I do not understand how I can forget so often to be present and embrace the moment I am in when I’m constantly surrounded by such courageous reminders, but I do. I forget all the time.

       I am taking my peace of mind back. Or at the very least I am going to make it a point to embrace the moments and not live so much in self-centered fear. It’s a journey and worrying has never solved a problem. The lives and experiences of every person for whom I’ve cared has taught me this lesson.