Monday, December 24, 2012


On this Christmas Eve, when joy should reign and hearts should rest easy in the comforts of home and family, let us not forget those for whom this holiday holds a grief too big to imagine.

For Newtown, Connecticut.

For Webster, New York.

And for the many in this world whose stories are not splashed across headlines but whose grief, desperation, and pain are no lesser felt or worthy of our prayers.  May your load grow lighter, may your grief be eased, and may each dawning morning hold the promise of another chance to begin anew.

This is my Christmas wish.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Lakeside Christmas

Don't let the sunshine fool you.  It's 30 degrees, even colder at night.  Windy enough to knock you over if you're not careful.  But inside it's warm and cozy, cookies are baking, and family is gathered round.  I hope everyone is enjoying the shortest days of the year, and the holidays that come with them - if you celebrate.

Love to all.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Year Gone By

It occurred to me tonight as I was brushing my teeth that exactly one year ago (or pretty close, I don't remember the exact date) I was convinced my life was over.  I know that when someone close to you dies, they say that it takes at least one full year to adjust to their absence - you have to live through the pain of every birthday, every holiday, every season change without them by your side in order to fully accept it and move on.  Maybe that's a little bit true for a heartbreak as well.  When the person you loved most in the world up and leaves your side, it certainly takes more than a couple of weeks to adjust to life without them.  And though the first few months of 2012 were downright miserable, as the seasons warmed, so did my heart.  I thought of Alix on her birthday in August, yes, and I reminisced about our life together on one of my trips back to New York to visit friends.  But if I hadn't gotten to a place where I felt okay about being on my own, and where I was excited and proud to be going to grad school of my own volition, and yes, even a little bit more comfortable in my own skin, I never would have met this person.

And I will not compare them.  Because that's just tacky.  But I love that when I'm stressed about finals, he will pull out a jar of bubbles - yes, bubbles - and blow them around the apartment until he can get me to smile.  Or that when we run together, the miles slip away under our feet and with them, the worries and stresses of the day and there is nothing else, just me and him.

I don't know what the future holds, indeed none of us do.  But today seems like a fitting day to close the door on a part of my past that I am happy to leave behind.  This past year of at first overwhelming and piercing, and then lessening and dulling grief is done.  Happily, I am letting it go.  I hope that Alix, too has found a better love, that she has left her demons behind and found a path that fulfills her and brings her joy.  I think that both of us deserve that.  

* * *

And with the successful submission of my online Anatomy & Physiology final this evening, I am officially done with my first semester of nursing school!  It was harder than I could have anticipated, and in ways that I never could have predicted, but ultimately - I am so glad I am there, learning as much as I am, and one semester closer to catching babies down the road.  That said, I slept 12 hours last night and took a 2 hour nap this afternoon, so Yale, you're awesome in a lot of ways, but the amount of sleep you allow me is seriously an issue.  Let's work on that, okay?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

What Defies All Words

I am not a parent.  And though I have loved children fiercely in my years as a nanny, and have wished sometimes idly and sometimes passionately over the years to be a mother already, on Friday afternoon when I learned of the shooting that happened not even an hour from where I live, I was suddenly and profoundly grateful to not be a parent.  Partly because I simply could not fathom being one of the parents of the 20 children killed, or even a parent of the hundreds of children who survived but will go on to face a life whose innocence has been ripped away far too early.  But also because whether 45 minutes away or 12 hours away from the small town of Newtown where this happened, for every parent whose life and family was not touched by this horror, I don't know how the fear and the powerlessness and helplessness doesn't drive you into the basement, holding your babies close and never letting them go.  I mean, I do know.  I know that you can't live your life in fear.  I know that you still need to send your kids to school and you can grieve for the lives lost and affected and accept that there is no way to know when or where things like this will happen.  I know those things.  But I also remember how it felt when a classmate's dad died suddenly of a massive heart attack on a random Tuesday afternoon when we were fifteen, and how I went home and hugged my father more tightly than I had in a decade and I felt how fiercely my love for him could not ever stop something like a heart attack (or cancer, for that matter) from touching him, from touching our family, and that scared the shit out of me.

Love cannot stop bad things from happening.  I still believe in it, like I believe in God - not because something or someone tells me to, but because I can feel and I can see what love and God (the same thing, essentially) looks like and feels like in the world around us but it is not all powerful.  It doesn't stop mass shootings.  It doesn't keep people from getting cancer or dying of heart attacks or facing mental illness that threatens to eat them alive.  But just like we treat heart disease with Lipitor and Coumadin, and we treat cancer with chemotherapy and radiation, we have ways to treat mental illness too.  And we need to treat it.  We need to allow people access to this care, and provide for continuity of care, and yes, maybe even force people to accept treatment when they might not want to for the safety of themselves and those around them.

Out of the many, many pieces being written about Friday's tragedy, these are three that have profoundly moved me, made me think, and educated me.  I encourage you to take a look.

Did This Really Happen in My Elementary School?
"...How could the elementary school where I wrote my first story and got in trouble for calling Ross Perot a butthead also be the site of the nation's second-deadliest school shooting? I can't reconcile the memories I have of Sandy Hook School with the events of today. They simply aren't the same place."

Thinking the Unthinkable
"...On the intake form, under the question, “What are your expectations for treatment?” I wrote, “I need help.”

And I do. This problem is too big for me to handle on my own. Sometimes there are no good options. So you just pray for grace and trust that in hindsight, it will all make sense."

"...The idea that the only thing between you and twenty dead kids lying at your feet is a couple of functioning neural pathways.  That all it takes is one break somewhere inside your brain and suddenly you are hearing voices and think everybody is out to get you.  That in six months you can go from being a well-liked and reasonably happy individual to planning a mass murder."

Monday, December 10, 2012

A letter

Dear next year's GEPNs,

Your fate (as it relates to grad school) is currently being decided by my professors on the admissions committee.  I know this waiting game is nerve-wracking, but it's out of your hands now and you've done everything you can do.  You worked your butt off on that application, I know you did (because I did too).  I signed up a few days ago to host you in February when you come for your interviews, and I'll also be speaking to you as a current GEPN when you split into these little sub-specialty groups, also on your interview day.  But I have something to tell you now.  And I will tell you this again and again. And you might look at me as someone who is not even finished with her first semester of nursing school and roll your eyes and wonder what in the hell of value I might have to share with you (and you would probably be right) but bear with me.

I am here to tell you that the culture of nursing has to change, and it can change, and it is changing, and you are part of that.  It starts with us.  It begins with us, as nursing students.  It goes like this - for a long, long time, nursing has been about "eating your young."  I'm not going to get on a soapbox as a baby nursing student and say a lot about the value of how preceptors and instructors teach us, but what I am going to say is this, so listen closely:

You need to take care of each other.

You need to.  It is nonnegotiable.  Other graduate programs might be about competition.  They might be about beating each other out for opportunities at internships and jobs, and they might be about proving yourself to your instructors and your peers.  I wouldn't know.  I wouldn't know, because I chose a profession that is built on a foundation of caring and that begins with how we take care of each other.  You will hear Linda make offhand references to getting close to your clinical group members, or you might hear older students talk about the connections they've made within their specialty.  That is not enough.  Hear me now, and hear me good - when you show up to Yale next August, you are not alone.  You are not an island.  You will not survive, you will not thrive, you will not be happy if you try to be an island.

You need to hold someone's hand when your first MedSurg test grade is posted.  You need to be able to look at someone in your clinical group and with only your eyes tell them that you need help bathing this patient, that it is too much and too hard for you to do alone and they will do it.  You need to be able to go hide in the bathroom at clinical and cry for two minutes (and two minutes ONLY) and know that they will cover for you.  You need to be able to study with someone (or multiple someones) late into the night before your test, and you need someone to tell you to take deep breaths and help you brainstorm nursing diagnoses for your care plan for your patient that is dying.  You need to be these things for your peers.  You need to be brave, and do these things even when they don't come easily to you (believe me, they do not always come easily to me) because as much as you will hear other people tell you during interview day and orientation and over and over again that you need to take care of yourself (and this is true, you do) you need to take care of each other, too.

You will be a better nurse because of it.  You will be a better person, too.

I wish that someone had told me this when I started.  Because I am fighting to make this true now.  And I am fired up about it, in a good way.  I was lonely and sad last week, and wallowed for a day and then stopped.  Because I am not the only one that is lonely.  We are all orbiting around in this incredibly hard new universe, feeling lonely and tired and scared and alone.  It doesn't need to be that way.  I know it doesn't, because I stretched and bent and reached out and I didn't break and things are better and it can be that way for you too, from the very beginning, not just starting in December.

Take charge.  Take care of each other.  Be each other's best resource, be the person someone calls in the middle of the night, be the best version of yourself that you never knew you could be.

Because nursing school is a long road.  But it's a hell of a lot more fun when you've got great people on the road right there with you.


Friday, December 7, 2012

The Blank Page

The second-year specialty midwifery students (me in two years) are officially done with "school" tomorrow - in the spring, they do an extended internship/job situation where they work as a midwife under a preceptor before graduating in May.  At a send-off dinner for them tonight, we sat around and listened to stories and memories of their last two and a half years here at Yale and I sat and thought two different things, overlapping in my head like two lines of melody in the same piece of music.  One was, "That's only two years away, and that will be you.  Holy shit."  The other was, "What makes you think that you will ever be up to the task of doing this thing, this sheltering and fostering and holding and catching and guiding of new life into this holy glorious fucked up world we are in?"

I don't know if I will ever stop grappling with that second question.  Truthfully, I don't think I ever should.  Because birth is a small thing, yes.  It is everywhere, it is billions upon literal billions of people.  It is over and over and over, the hormones and bones and muscles and breathing and work and sometimes it goes horribly wrong, but mostly it goes so right that it becomes just another whisper in the babble that never ends.  And sometimes, I can picture myself doing it.  I can see how it might look, and I can see students like those I saw tonight, who are doing it and have done it and look, Cait, yes it's a real thing and it will happen to you because you are here and that is why you are here.  But so much more often, and probably for years to come, what I feel more is the vast and gaping space between my fierce intention and my complete and full acceptance of the knowledge that this is just all so much bigger than me and bigger than I can catch and bigger and scarier than anything I could ever do.  And how on earth did I think that I could be that person, catching life and bringing it in?

Because birth is also huge.  It is everything.  It is the dark and terrifying tunnel, it is the orbit, and it is the way out.  It is endless hours, the single moment, it is the breaking down and the building back up.  It is sometimes the end, but it is so much more often the beginning of the very beginning.  The very first page.

There is something that I repeat to myself a lot, ever since starting this program.  One of those things is that, "Done is better than good."  This helps, sometimes a lot.  But another is this: The first and most important thing you need to do is show up.

You have to show up.  That's always the first step.  There are steps beyond that, and they might be hard, and you might never feel like you were ready until after you've done your first (or tenth) one.  But you have to be willing to show up.  You have to be willing to write the first page.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

When December Comes

Alright, well, I gave 30 Days Hath November my very best shot.  I promise.  I had some vague idea about sitting down yesterday and writing twelve blog posts before midnight in order to finish it under the letter of the law, if not the spirit.  Obviously that didn't happen, because instead I spent most of yesterday dripping tears like a leaky faucet, taking a bath, rallying to run some errands and eat nachos with the boy before then collapsing into bed and falling asleep.

Sometimes Yale is lonely.  Sometimes I feel like even three months in, I'm still the odd kid out at the playground, watching everyone else have a good time and never being asked to join in.  I'm working on it, this making friends thing.  It's hard, still.

But I put up Christmas lights, and made chili and bread today, and all of that helps marginally, so that's something.

Stay warm, everyone.

Warmer days