In my last post, I shared a story from my life about God asking me to give up something extravagant in order to experience empowering transformation in my life (and therefore not missing out on some amazing results ever since!). In order to follow my heart, I told you about how I had to face—no, tackle—the fear of loss or giving up too much. This week I want to tell you about another fear equally difficult to overcome.
Please remember…the fears we are addressing here are all intertwined and can happen simultaneously in these situations. So much so that they feel like the same fear. It’s really like one fear with many faces or voices.
#2. Fear of disappointment. I mean, when God convincingly asks us to do something completely counter to the rational mind and to the opinions of everyone we know, with no real guarantees of a payoff, another huge battle for me is the fear that, at worst I will be sorry I did it, and at best I will not inspired by it. Let me give you a real life example.
It was the early spring of 2010. I was sitting in my living room (I’ve told this story before but this shows the angle of this particular fear), minding my own business, when some weird inner “voice" practically yelled, “You are going to become a nurse!” Understand…at this time in my life, I had no healthcare experience. I was somewhat of a germaphobe. I was squeamish at the sight of blood, absolutely could not deal with even the thought of vomit, and I was a content full time professional writer. I was also forty-four! Who goes back to school for nursing at that age? Nothing could have been more counter to my thoughts or personal aspirations that day, and unfortunately there was no follow up instructions, explanations, or qualifiers. But whatever the source of “it” was, it was so convincing, that I knew it was going to happen.
Somewhere inside of me that day and (a thousand days beyond) I said, “I will do this, but you have to give me everything I need to succeed and promise not to let me fall on my face! I don’t know why I should or want to do this. Remember, I was terrible at grasping biology sciences! And another thing…whatever you ask me to do, I’m asking…no demanding...for the ultimate outcome of loving what I do. I don’t ever just want a job (free spirit over here). I want to be passionate about whatever I do.” Of course, nobody answered my demands. But I assumed I would be heard and accommodated if I was going to surrender myself to such an extreme course of life.
"I happen to believe we are all walking repositories of buried treasure. I believe this is one of the oldest and most generous tricks the universe plays on us human beings, both for its own amusement and for ours: The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them. The hunt to uncover those jewels—that’s creative living. The courage to go on that hunt in the first place—that’s what separates a mundane existence from a more enchanted one.” Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic
I immediately but hesitantly began the path toward nursing by signing up for an accelerated summer microbiology course at the local community college. As stated, I barely understood college biology a couple decades before so this was already a big concern. Immediately following, I enrolled in a CNA (certified nurse assistant) course. Shortly after getting through both of those with flying colors (thanks to gifted instructors), a young friend told me about a CNA job being posted at the local ER. I needed the experience, how hard could it be? That would tell me if I really wanted to or felt like I could do this.
I interviewed and got the job. However, I soon learned that the nurses were not too happy with the provision of a CNA with no experience, and many of them were not-so-subtly giving off vibes and sending messages from the beginning. Some even hazed me a bit. One even told me I had no business becoming a nurse and would never make it! After giving my best efforts for them day after day yet experiencing their continued resentful words and behaviors, I often came home defeated. My husband had so much compassion for this difficult path and even looked for validating material online to cheer me up. Early on he sent me a link to “nursesarebitches.com,” a website devoted to tales about this very kind of ridiculous and odd behavior in too many hospitals. I mean, this is a helping industry, where people are supposed to be nurses because they care about people. They are presumed to be nurturers and healers.
“Look!” I told the Voice, "I didn’t ask to do this. If you make it too hard, I’m going to quit. I don’t need this!”
Enter the doctors. This is what kept me in that difficult place. The doctors loved me, frequently teaching me things while they used me to help them with procedures. They could see I was a quick learner, and eager to help. Two of them even gave me fantastic recommendations for my nursing school application. I stayed in that place for about 18 months, and in the end, I won over all the nurses through consistency, hard work, and kindness. But it wasn’t easy. And that told me that even when you are doing what you are supposed to be doing, there are expected challenges.
But there were so many provisions and miracles. I got paired with all the perfect teachers to help me grasp the most difficult concepts. These angels built my science foundation stone by stone so that I really understood all of the critical concepts that my nursing knowledge base depended upon. I got unexpected scholarships. One was “unadvertised” scholarship that I didn’t even know I had applied for it but it paid for more than half of my nursing program! When we moved to Sandpoint, Idaho, the director of nursing created a job just for me that was a perfect fit for my personality and needs for experience. I was a hospital “float” CNA, which means I went to all departments of the hospital as needed, gaining amazing experience to round out my hospital flow knowledge. I also got a job in the lab as a phlebotomist, which was a huge asset to nursing, both with vein access and understanding bloodwork.
My nursing program was perfect for me. I had to leave home for 15 months to complete my education in Wyoming, but it all worked well. The program had an inclusion of complementary and alternative medicine, which is rare. They also focused on qualitative nursing, or the meaningful aspect of nursing that connects psychosocial, spirit and emotion in patient care. I graduated at age 49 with straight A’s and a deep understanding of the science of nursing, which was truly a miracle.
Upon graduation, I got a job at Kootenai Health, a level 2 trauma center/hospital in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. It’s funny. When you’re in nursing school, the path is so difficult that you have your eyes on that prize of graduation—like climbing a great mountain. Nobody tells you that nursing school was the “little mountain” before the “big mountain” of actual new nursing practice behind it. The first year of nursing in that hospital took everything in me to survive—mentally, physically, and emotionally. The hours, the intensity, the learning curve, the exhaustion, all of it. It was not a bad place to work, don’t get me wrong. As hospitals go and especially compared to the first two I had worked as a CNA, I felt like I had died and gone to hospital heaven. Kootenai was the most functional and professional experience, from admin to doctors to nurses to all support staff. It’s just that nursing is that hard. I had no idea. I came home nearly in tears after most of my shifts, and my long-suffering husband had to pick up the pieces. Like, every time I came home for at least the first four months. I frequently had doubts. Why did I do this? Why did God send me down this path? What about my request to be passionate about what I do?
It was also a huge sacrifice. It was an hour from home, so I frequently stayed in Coeur d’Alene because otherwise it was difficult to get enough rest. The floor I worked on the first year (ortho-neuro) is known for being heavy, fast-paced work. My shifts were rarely shorter than 13.5 to 14 hours because I was never on time getting out (with one 30 minute break the whole shift). The next year I transitioned to float nursing, where I worked in most of the areas of the hospital as needed. And after that, I decided I hadn’t had enough challenge in my life, so I moved to ER. It was a full circle for me.
Fast forward. Last year, I knew this chapter of hospital nursing was diminishing. I could feel it. In fact, I decided almost exactly one year ago that I would not be in a hospital beyond one more year. This ended up coinciding with our move to Puerto Rico last month.
What does all this mean? What have I gotten out of this experience that justifies all of the hard work (literally blood, sweat, tears, and a lot of vomit and poop!). Was it worth it? Did God/Universe keep their end of the deal? I don’t believe I’ve had the full opportunity to see why I was sent into nursing yet. I feel within me there is still a big part of this puzzle and story yet to unfold. But here’s what I see now.
I learned so much about myself through this experience. I also became a different person. Here are a few of the tangible benefits and ways that God was faithful to my requests:
I never once fell flat on my face. I never hurt anyone. The doctors affirmed to me frequently that they trusted me as a smart, critical thinking, conscientious, and compassionate nurse which was so important in my process of overcoming voices from my childhood that told me I was a failure. I felt so respected and valued. This despite all the fear and self-doubt I had going in and throughout the entire experience. I never felt totally confident, or comfortable, or even safe! But for that very reason I stayed awake, thinking on my feet, and present to the experience.
I had the huge honor to show love to vulnerable people in a tangible, hands-on way. I somehow relished every bit of it, despite my previous weaknesses in this area. This taught me how far I have come in the ways of love and compassion (0-100!) from my younger self. I frequently defended patients, and always saw myself as their advocate. I truly felt so much love for almost every patient I ever encountered (there’s always a handful that you dread and try not to wish them on someone else). This revelation into the change of my heart was so important for me. God has truly changed my heart and filled it with love for people, something that was lacking in my earlier life. I feel like such a new person. How better could I have witnessed or become aware of this personal transformation within myself than to be in a situation like this?
I learned that I am smarter and more capable than I have ever realized. There were seeds of intelligence, a great capacity for learning, research, and compassion that were planted in me that I was never privy to until they germinated and grew. I now believe all humans carry this phenomenon…we all ARE greatness in our own area of becoming, whether we realize it or not. We are all sparks of the Divine. When we are given an impossible challenge, we are being set up to learn a life-altering truth about ourselves. I think it is just fascinating that you can live in your own mind and body for half a century and not know so many things about yourself and what you are capable of!
So yes, I was given everything I needed to succeed. AND I was given love—even passion at some level—to do what was asked of me. I have the feeling that whatever is ahead for me, will even add to both of these many times over. Perhaps I haven’t even experienced half of the fulfillment of my passion for this path yet! That is how big and loving is the Divine Intelligence. That is how much we can trust.
“He smiled at the girl with infinite compassion and asked, ‘Do you have the courage? Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes.’” Elizabeth Gilbert
Next week! I saved my most difficult fear battle for last. You won’t want to miss next week when I talk about fear of pain—will it cause too much suffering? Will I have what it takes—the courage—to see it through? Spoiler alert: I’m going to do a video for this one because I’ve got a couple of examples with totally different outcomes