When Life Dares You to Complain
Editorial from Canadian Nurse Magazine, Volume 108
Celebrating National Nursing Week – May 2012
Our amazing profession bonds together wide-eyed new graduates and wily veterans alike because the work we do touches people in every community across this country. Some of us might have to travel a desolate logging road to a remote First Nation community or navigate the mayhem of a 16-lane highway during the daily commute, but once at our workplaces each of us makes a difference in the lives of those we provide care for.
We have the power to create a positive environment at work, at home and within ourselves. Having a sense of humor allows us to make an even bigger difference in our professional lives by helping us build connections with those around us. Humour also helps us deal with the curve balls that life tosses our way, and it helps us shift our perspective in those moments when life dares us to complain.
Some days we need a reason to laugh. Just look at what we’ve been through. Reorganizations and layoffs at work, and now the country is crawling its way out of an economic crisis. Those of us who were counting on Freedom 55 are thinking about Freedom 75 as a distinct possibility. Hey, we’ll still retire, we’ll still have money, but we’re going to have about 4½ months to enjoy it. So we should book that massage/tee time/bucket-list trip right now.
When I reflect on my nursing career, I realize that some of the best lessons on the power of humor and connections have come from patients. Heidi was booked to have a mastectomy, and while I was checking her in we chatted about my escapades that morning. I told her how I’d lost my dog on a run, about the chaos I’d gone through to recover the lost creature and how I’d arrived at work late and completely frazzled. Heidi loved the story. There had not been much laughter in her life recently — she was tired of people asking her about her condition. She wanted to make the best of each day, no matter how she felt. On a lot of days, she did not feel well at all. But she didn’t want to be treated any differently because of her illness.
Heidi went on to tell me about the wig collection she had assembled since undergoing chemo. Apparently, her husband loved the wigs. Although he didn’t care if Heidi had hair on her head or not, he felt as though he was dating a new character —“Simone” the redhead, “Roxy” the blonde and “Juanita” the brunette — whenever she put on a different wig.
Heidi was finding some fun in the midst of a difficult situation. She embraced the positive as her way of fighting back. As she so bravely put it, “you can’t get cancer of the spirit.”
It is patients like Heidi who make what we do worthwhile and remind us of the importance of putting humor into our work and making connections with others. They are what we need to get us to kick the covers off in the morning.
The next time you are tempted to complain, remember to look for the laughter in the situation and shift your perspective: put your chest out, life your chin up and say, Bring it on!