Sunday, November 9, 2008


This week I will be heading off to Kingston, Ontario for a Compassion Fatigue training and a visit with dear friends and I'm feeling very excited.  (Or at least I will be once the laundry and packing are done...!).

Research tells us that both continuing education workshops and time spent with family and friends contribute to our burnout and compassion fatigue resiliency and I intend to drink deeply of both.

I'm looking forward to meeting new people who are also interested in Compassion Fatigue. (The shift to a home office has been wonderful in many ways - no commute, lake-walks whenever the mood strikes, a fresh cup of tea just footsteps away - but it is easy to become isolated, especially for an introvert who enjoys being alone.  So, as in the days of my family caregiving when I consciously connected with the folks at Lonsdale Quay every Wednesday morning, I'm making a conscious choice to build my professional network through attending workshops and conferences.)

Once the workshop is finished, I will have a few days to spend with my friends, talking, laughing, walking, attending a country concert and, perhaps, driving to Prince Edward County for some crisp, delicious Ontario apples.  And I will definitely take the time to walk to Panchencho's for my annual latte and sticky bun!

What about you?  How are things going on the connecting front?  When was the last time you spent an hour with someone just for the fun of it?  I remember, in the depths of my family caregiving, a wise friend noted how hard it must be for an introverted caregiver to need support and have to reach  into the outer world to get it.  (Introverts are people who, when exhausted, need to retreat to their inner worlds to rest -  so the last thing they want to do when they're tired is connect.)  

But you don't have to spend hours with a crowd of people in order to stay connected. Perhaps you could have a conversation with someone whom you know will respect your need to get off the phone after 10 minutes?  Perhaps you could arrange a 15 minute walk with one quiet friend?  Or maybe you could join a chatline regarding your favourite hobby or activity?  Or maybe even go to a movie where you only have to chat on the way to and from the theatre? 

We human beings are hard wired to connect, some of us a little more or less so than others, and there are as many ways to do it as there are people. The important thing is to determine how much connection you need and then to make a conscious choice to make it happen, even if only a baby step at a time.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

One Day at a Time...

One evening last week, I had the extraordinary privilege of hearing primatologist, Dr. Jane Goodall, speak on  A Reason to Hope at the Center for Performing Arts in Vancouver.

Although her presentation was inspiring and motivating, it was her presence that left the most lasting impression. Although the seventy-four year old was slight and obviously tired after speaking 300 days out of the last 365 to save her beloved chimpanzees, she was deeply grounded, still and quiet in a manner that I've rarely encountered other than in people who spend many hours in prayer or meditation.  Her's was truly an arresting presence.  And when asked from whence came her strength, she replied calmly that she took one day at a time.

One day at a time.  There are so many things we couldn't begin to face if we believed that we had to do them forever.  But one day at a time, that's a different thing altogether.  There's not much that we can't handle a day at a time.

I remember people asking how I coped with caring for my husband, especially during the last three years of his life when he was bed bound.  They couldn't understand how I could keep doing the same tasks day in and day out, to say nothing of dealing with the life-threatening emergencies that occurred on a regular basis.  "How did I keep going?", they asked?  Wasn't it overwhelming?

Well, no, it wasn't overwhelming, not on a regular basis anyway, because we lived our lives one day at a time.  Of course the days after the nights without sleep were pretty tough and the endless tasks were draining and boring and the emergencies were terrifying but each day had a beginning and an end and each morning offered a fresh start.  I found that as long as I worried about today today, and left tomorrow to tomorrow, I managed pretty well.  It was only when I started importing tomorrow's concerns that I got into trouble.

That is not to say that we should bury our heads in the sand.  Contingency planning goes a long way toward reducing anxiety but after the potential problems are identified and the plans made, it is best to store them on a shelf until needed and then return to the present.

As a chronic worrier who has improved with age, work and experience, I keep a card on my freezer that reminds me of the importance of staying in the moment and living one day at a time.  On it is a saying that goes like this:

does not empty
of its
It empties
of its

A good reminder for all of us.