a) Feel helpless and frustrated, knowing that there’s nothing you can do
b) Tell her to call someone else and stop bothering you
c) Take the next flight to be there with her
I flirted with option a, which was indubitably the most sensible. I was in Taiwan, for God’s sake. And while I was doing fine financially for living in Taiwan, I was flat broke by US standards, and had no idea how I could even make it happen to get myself there. What the hell was I going to do? After a short but intense deliberation, I chose option “c.”
Doesn't Your Family Hate What You Do?
I find the question odd, and sometimes offensive, depending on the tone and the manner in which it is asked. I get asked various forms of it repeatedly, though, so I thought I should address it here on the blog.
Yes, I have a family. No, they don’t hate what I do. Yes, they sometimes wish I were closer, and so do I. The title is a reference to something my two-year-old niece says regularly in her wee little singsong voice. It pierces hearts whenever she says it, too, mine most definitely included. I literally clutched my chest the first time I heard her say it, it hit me so profoundly. But frankly, I visit more often and more freely now that I am a digital nomad and range over the whole world than I did when I simply lived across the country.
Health Care Professionals And How We Stress Them
I know they meant it jokingly and/or lovingly, but… no pressure, right? Yeah, right. Many times, I couldn’t even take a sick day when I felt like death warmed over. I often had to show up and push through anyway, because if I didn’t show up, patients would get screwed over for lack of appropriate care.
Every single time I did take off, usually because I got so desperate for a vacation that I absolutely couldn’t stand it, I came back to dozens of huge messes that had to be meticulously cleaned up and immediately ruined the refreshing effect my vacation had. I’m feeling burned out just thinking about it.
Sure, part of the above is the fault of my employer and certain unhelpful colleagues, but the huge majority of the problem is squarely caused by the healthcare and health education systems in the US, which are direct results of the screwed-up-ness of the political system, and… well, you get the picture. There’s no easy fix, and it doesn’t help to lay blame, so I don’t bother. It sure does suck, though.
I frequently felt hopeless and helpless about being unable to head to Wisconsin when things went badly, and barely managed to show up for a few days when my nephew and later niece were born. I loved my job, my patients and my immediate coworkers, but hated how confined I felt by it.
Digital Nomad Lifestyle
When my sister called me up for help with her frightening medical dilemma, I was faced with a choice. I had visited Wisconsin for over a week twice in the past 12 months, which was already more often than my usual once per year for 3-4 days.
I was financially strapped, and far far away in Asia, with a life-changing retreat coming up in a few short weeks that I would have to abandon. I was deep into designing my first online course, planning to launch in just 3 more days, and had a million things running that I wanted to keep up on, that I needed to be present for in order to push forward.
Then I had an epiphany.
Why Am I Doing This?
And I knew I needed to be around to help my sister. With a debilitating and sudden-onset injury, which rapidly worsened and required emergency surgery, necessitating a long slow recovery, about to move into a new house and start a new job, along with a 2- and 4-year old, she was in some deep shit, and she knew it.
She had great family support, but they all had lives, and limitations on how much/often and how they could help. She needed a person to hold the space for her, help her deal with the medical stuff and make sure she and her family had what they needed while going through this experience. Having worked in them for years, I know well that hospitals are 99% unmitigated boredom and 1% utter terror, and it helps to have someone to go through it with you, especially if they know the ropes.
So I went.
With the kind-hearted support of at least a dozen friends and family, and even several strangers, I found myself in my sister’s hospital room a whirlwind 36 hours later. I spent that week leading up to her surgery doing everything in my power to make sure she was taken care of, and understood what was going on around her and why. As it turns out, the rest of the family took care of the kids and I got to focus on taking care of my sister. It worked for me - I may not be a parent yet, but I definitely have this whole nursing thing down.
The week after surgery, I helped her transition back home, and made sure it was safe and comfortable in every way possible. I also started making plans to head back to Asia, after things were under control and she was healing well.
Successful Relaunch Back To Asia
My e-course came out a couple days ago. I am back to writing my blog. I am staying in Thailand, resting from my jet lag and preparing for the retreat I thought I was going to miss. I am working with my new batch of nurse practitioner students, and generally just plain doing great.
By all rights, I should have chosen option “a.” I should have stayed in Asia and done my own thing and felt hopeless and helpless at being so far away. But I would have been miserable and hated it and myself, because a niggle of doubt would have known that actually it was a choice, not a “reality.” And I never would have seen through this situation what an amazing support system I have, and for which I am eternally grateful.
In all honesty, though, I couldn’t possibly have chosen option “a.” Not without giving up my integrity. I didn’t realize it before now, but I designed my mobile lifestyle with exactly this type of situation in mind. This experience helped me get clarity on what I want out of life, what principles I stand for, and what I am willing to fight for.
What are you willing to fight for?