Jan 31, 2015
Birju: Today is a special day for me, as our guest is one of the dearest people in my life. Anne-Marie Bauer is a pediatric nurse. She is a holistic health care professional. She spent years focusing on how to bring the heart to the bedside in hospitals where from my perspective empathy is not so much part of the mandate. She's been a volunteer with ServiceSpace for several years now and she practices everyday acts of heroism all the time. Thank you so much for sharing your spirit with us today, Anne-Marie.
Anne-Marie: Thank you for having me here. I'm feeling really grateful to be on the call, to be a guest speaker. I've been on the other side listening to these amazing people who have brought their perspectives on how they bring compassion and kindness to the world. I don't usually like to be in the spotlight, but knowing that it is an act of service, I'm really happy to be here.
Birju: We will all be holding you. There are a lot of folks who are joining in this, so I would encourage all of us to think of this as a circle, virtually, not a single person in front of a stage. I am curious why nursing became such a passion to begin with.
Anne-Marie: I think of two people in my life. We've heard how our mothers have been role models. I feel my mother was a strong role model for me; she was also a single parent of six children. She had this caring nature that was so unconditional. She would often have to take more than one job to support us all. One of the jobs was as a home health aide. I would hear stories of her day, taking care of elderly people or children with disabilities. Even so, expending so much energy and care and time devoted to their well-being, she would still come home at night and tuck us in, still have the energy to ask us about our day and to make sure that we were fed and clothed. My mother was a strong role model in my life.
Later in life, my aunt, whom I didn't really know well growing up, was also a nurse. There was a time when I was debating whether I should go back to Finland after I had come here my senior year of high school, and my aunt had asked me what my wishes were. It was a big turning point. I didn't have clarity. She asked me to shadow her one day at the hospital where she worked. She was an ICU nurse. For patients who are in very critical stages, a lot of them comatose, a lot of the nurses do total bed care, so it's very intense.
When I shadowed her I was 18 years old. I walked through hospital floors and saw the joy that was there even in situations where patients could pass very quickly. The empathy and care she exemplified for me was tremendous. She's such a giving and loving person as it is, and she invited me to live with her. She offered me a place to stay while I went to college. She supported me. She was such an inspiration that I decided to go into nursing.
While I was in nursing school, in my second-to-last semester, I started having intractable migraines, and going to clinical practice and going to class and study was really difficult. I had a hard time focusing. I felt nauseous all the time. I had moments where any light and noise would aggravate me, so it was very hard to focus. There was a point when I felt I shouldn't continue with school. We went through a process of going to doctors and seeing what could be done. There was a moment when I broke down and said, "I can't do this. I'm going to have to continue next year. But I'll have to start the entire semester all over.” So there would be one year lost because in nursing, it's sequential. You have to go through each step in order to get to the next.
I came home one day from school, and my aunt had left a book at the kitchen table. And.... I'm getting a little emotional, because it was very touching... she left the book, "The Little Engine That Could." For those of you who don't know the story, it's a children's book about an engine that would try to huff and puff his way over the same hill. He had a hard time. He'd admire the big engines that "could." They would get over it with ease. But he would try and try and try. At one point he said "I can't do this." At the turning point, a larger engine said to him, "You can. Just say 'You think you can, you think you can.'" He tried again getting up the mountain, saying "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can." My aunt said, "There's nothing that you can't do. You just have to think you can and you will. You are limitless. Even if you feel as if it's not your time, next time it will be. But there's nothing you cannot do." She's been a huge inspiration for me. She's been a really big part of my life.
That's what led me into nursing.
Birju: I'm moved by how you have family members that come from the same space and who know you're carrying on that tradition. You mentioned a type of ICU nurse your aunt was; you also are a specific kind of a bedside nurse. What is the day-to-day life of a nurse in the corner of the world where you are?
Anne-Marie: Where do you start? It's unbelievable at times, the things you see, the people you meet. The days are sometimes very scary. Sometimes they're hilarious. There are moments you are "grossed out" by what's happening, but you say "Hey! This is actually kind of cool that I'm seeing this and experiencing this."
Birju: Can you give us specifics?
Anne-Marie: I work on a pediatrics floor. So we're constantly stretched to be creative, particularly with kids. One day you're changing your tone to be able to meet with a two-year-old and play with them before you take medical equipment over to them and listen to their heart or their lungs. The next moment you're walking into a room where you have teenage patients, so you have to be really frank with them, tell them the way it is, and give them the respect they need. Other times you're calling blood "a red body-juice,” so little kids aren't afraid of what's coming out of them when you're drawing their blood. Another time you're coming up with names for an ostomy pouch, so an eight-year-old doesn't feel so alienated from this pouch that her bodily functions are pouring into. So she's not feeling terrible about her body.
Recently there was a young girl who was at that age which is a very sensitive time, when they're becoming aware of their bodies and moving into pre-teenage years. This girl had an inflammation of her bowel such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's. She came in for what we thought was routine surgery and had a lot of complications. She was prepared mentally. She was prepared by her parents, who told her she was going to have an operation to have a pouch outside of her body, in which her stool would collect. At first she was okay with this. When the actual day came that she saw it, she didn't want anything to do with it. You have to be very creative. Teaching them is essential. We came up with names for the things we eat. The consistency can change. So eventually we were at the point where she had a nickname for it. She was saying "Oh, look, it's this color now!" Or, "I ate this, and this is what's coming out!"
So it's a journey. I feel that the day-to-day is really stepping into what is needed. In any given moment, you have to put on a different hat, and hopefully try to be as creative as possible. You have to feel what your patients need in the moment. What is it they're feeling? How can you "feel into" their needs?
Birju: I hear you talking about the importance of feeling and connecting. The word that comes to mind is empathy. I'm also aware, having been in a hospital as a patient, that I haven't necessarily felt as if that spaciousness was present. Everything is go-go-go and money is starting to become the driver. I'm curious how what you've described juxtaposes with the approach the hospital as a whole takes toward service.
Anne-Marie: It is a very fast-paced environment. It is a business. I'm not familiar with the overall, big-scale business portion of it, but I've had a lot of nurses say the same as I have felt. Sometimes you feel patients are on an assembly line. They come in, they're treated, you get them stable and they're out the door. And then they come back again. I know most hospitals vary. They say they put patients first. It's their motto. I know some hospitals might be doing a better job of that. But what that really entails in such an environment that's so fast-paced is that there's a lot of disconnection with the patients themselves.
Birju: You had mentioned earlier that half of your upbringing was in Finland. I'm wondering if you feel that growing up in that part of the world had an impact on your values.
Anne-Marie: We Finns in general are humble people. We're quiet. Yet we're very proud of our roots and our traditions. I feel we're closely tied to simplicity, appreciating nature, and community-building. The Nordic countries have been highlighted as having an extensive social welfare structure, in which the objective is to give everyone a decent living condition, even if you're not native to Finland. Finland has taken in many immigrants. Even from the beginning of life, mothers are given a maternity package which includes everything you can think of that a child would need in the very early stages of their lives. That's for everybody, no matter what socioeconomic structure you come from. Everyone gets the same. Mothers and fathers are supported by the government. The government actively supports its people, giving them ample time to be with their children at that early stage -- at so many different levels, not just maternity and paternity times. The social welfare structure is designed to give everybody an equal chance and decent living conditions.
Growing up in such an environment, I feel that simplicity has been a core value for me. Finnish people are not the kind to one-up each other. So we appreciate having our basics and focusing more on socializing, community, and appreciating nature. When I think of my own values, simplicity, nature, and community are close to my heart. Living in that environment has shaped the way I live my life. I recognize that if I'm living simply, it's not just for myself, it's to be connected in this greater web with everyone else.
Birju: What I hear you describing as a value system is something that from my perspective is antagonistic to the value system of the hospital you go to everyday. You're in the belly of the beast. How do you think about living these values and “being the change” in a place where the opposite is what is valued?
Anne-Marie: It's a constant practice of trying to live those values in a place that's challenging. I used to think that I was going into a profession. But now I've seen that no matter what we do every day, it's the practice of our values that we're cultivating. The "belly of the beast"? Still I feel that it's a challenging situation and place. Could you clarify that question for me a bit?
Birju: I hear you saying simplicity and being connected socially is also a form of healing. Yet the hospital system says that taking on medications, being exposed to certain substances, is how health is created. So how do you say, "Okay, how do I live my values and share at the heart level?" where there's no space or time for that?
Anne-Marie: It is very challenging at times. Despite that, I try to find these micro-moments where I can practice. Time is very limited even though I'm there for 13, 14 hours a day at times. The number of people I might come in contact with during the day is so many. Even so, I try to create those connections with people, when it comes to teaching them about the values I hold dear.
One of the values is nature and being close to nature, and that includes nutrition. So it may be discussing ways, with patients and parents, who are the primary caregivers, and trying to give nutritional advice that may not be in alignment with the prescribed drugs that I'm giving them. A simple example is pain management. There are a lot of drugs given for pain management that escalate other things in the body such as a blockage in your intestines. You can get constipated from that. I find nutritional modalities to aid with that. Prune juice is a really great thing we provide for kids. We talk to parents about dried apricots, and how that may be high in iron, and we find creative ways to give them a choice, to tell them we're here to provide these options for you, but you are your own person and you have to make these decisions.
Birju: I love how you’re making it hit the ground. It's not as if you're saying, "Oh, I just pray for them." It’s a case of "No, we can give them prune juice instead of having them do all these things."
Anne-Marie: I talked about pain management. I've had a lot of struggle with this. Sometimes we give some really intense pain medications without assessing the deeper causes of pain. I had a 17-year-old female patient who was diagnosed with HIV which later turned into AIDS. She didn't know she was diagnosed with this. Her parents kept the information from her until she was about 14 or 15. She didn't know of her disease process until later in life. There was a lot of emotional pain tied into physical symptoms she was experiencing. She definitely had physical pain, but I realized she knew exactly when her pain medications were due and she would call us sometimes before and cry. It was very heartbreaking. Some of the nurses said "Just give this pain medication." So everything we could possibly give her we were giving her. I feel it's very important to address the emotional aspect of it. And I sat with her and I found out there was a lot of fear involved. She knew she was going to die. It was at such a late stage. Sitting with her and talking to her, we saw she was afraid she was going to be alone, and that we were going to walk out the door. That her Mom and Dad weren't going to be there because they didn't visit her that much. That we would be so busy that she would end up passing and nobody would be around her when that happened.
Amit: Did she open up and tell you that right away? Someone like that might be filled with a lot of anger and take it out on those around her, understandably. I'm curious how you got her to open up and share, which allowed you to heal her.
Anne-Marie: I think a lot depends on the energy you bring. There's so much going on, but when you walk through that door or through the curtain, you are there for them in that moment. You have to have them understand that nothing else is more important than that moment. It's hard when you're taking care of six people at a time and everybody is calling you at once. You have to prioritize and know what's needed at that given time. So I was sitting with her, even though I knew that although this medication was due at this time and might be a little late, she needs this (being with her) right now. It was a matter of sitting with her, holding her hand, and asking questions. It's important to ask questions because then you allow them to share in a way they might not have felt they could before. I was really sitting with her.
Birju: What I hear you mentioning are the small things, not the big things; the system is the system, and I've seen you constantly engage in these small things to uplift and be there for other people. I wonder if you could zoom out on that part of your own journey. How did that become such a strong practice for you?
Anne-Marie: It's tied into seeing inspiring people do amazing things. I mentioned my aunt and my mother exemplifying kindness and compassion. I used to think that one shouldn't highlight their own kindness and share that with others. But coming into Service Space and KindSpring, I've seen that kindness is such a beautiful platform where these stories are highlighted. When somebody gets inspired by that, it allows them to think, "I want to embody this quality." It's having this culture of people who practice this that makes me want to practice it as well and want to embody that. And having two amazing role models in my life that have been an example for me.
Amit: I'd like to go back to the health care environment, and how you bring your values into that work environment. I wonder if you have a story you can share about how, through bringing nurses together or through creating an environment that helps you live out your values, you can bring out this nurturing ability or kindness.
Anne-Marie: While living in New York City I worked in a large hospital, where every day you're met with a lot of resistance. You might have people complaining a lot. Things go wrong a lot of the time. So I was coming into this every day and feeling that energy. I felt, "There's so much good that's happening here, too. There are so many things that go right. How can I highlight that?” I went to my manager and asked her if there was a way we could come together in a circle at the end of our shift. That was really challenging because we were all so busy. We were trying to make an intention of coming together and acknowledging the things that went right -- acknowledging each other for the good we're doing, like having another nurse help me lift a patient or turn a patient, and thanking her for that. My manager said, "I know you guys are busy, but we can try this." And we did, we came to a circle each time. We invited parents and physicians just to pause at the end of the day to see if we can acknowledge the good that had happened that day. Some people shared and others felt "This is not for me. I'm too busy for this. I need to get out." So that circle fizzled.
But I still felt it was important to acknowledge everybody's hard work and efforts. So I went back to my manager and said, "I know that didn't work, but let's see if I can try something else. How about a gratitude board?" There was a big board that we would write anonymously on. We'd leave kindness notes for each other, like "Hey, Michelle, I thank you so much for grabbing those linens for me when I was so busy." Or "I'm really grateful that my meds were on time, so the day flew by so beautifully." Small things like that. Toward the end, people were curious to see if their names would end up on that board. Later on I learned that the floor I had worked on became such a happy place to be, where people were looking for excuses to do something for each other and acknowledged that. So the board wasn't really needed anymore. It became second-nature for people to really look out for these opportunities in which they could thank another or do something nice for each other. We were doing things all the time, but highlighting that good is essential. It helps the morale of the place you're working in.
Birju: I want to dive a little deeper into this idea of communication -- group communication and personal communication. You've told me that Words are only a piece of communicating that one cares. Can you share some other ways you've played with communication in your work or outside your work so that words are just a piece of it?
Anne-Marie: I've been notorious for telling people I have a hard time articulating myself. I feel the best way is sometimes not even using words, but my presence. That sometimes gets overlooked a lot in the environment in which I work.
One example comes to mind. There was a patient I had who developmentally was challenged; who had cerebral palsy and was developmentally delayed, could not verbalize, and could not speak, but you could see he was very much there. There was this beautiful spirit. His mother knew what his facial expressions meant and the "energy" he was in. And when you're walking into a room, they sense your own energy immediately. What is it that you're bringing into that room? Are you bringing stress? Are you bringing in frustration? Or are you coming in with compassion and empathy? Are you checking yourself before you walk in and what are the thoughts that are in your mind? Are you thinking about the next patient next door and how you can get this and that done? Are you thinking about wanting to just get out of there and make it home on time? For me, personally, it's tuning in to the energy that I can communicate with. In the case of this particular patient, the patient's mother had mentioned how, when I came to the bedside, the way I was interacting with him, he'd smile instantly. There were other times when he had such a flat affect for so many days. I don't know exactly what I was doing, but I remember the intention when I walked into the room and what I could bring to the bedside. I feel touch is important. It is such an essential way of communicating. You communicate with your eyes. You can smile with your eyes. Sometimes you're wearing a mask, and they can't see your smile, but you can communicate with your eyes and smile with them, and just touch. There are so many ways you. can communicate empathy and compassion and bring a spirit of deep presence.
Birju: I resonate. I think about how to actualize this. I've seen you embody these things. I'm wondering how you'd think about sharing the embodiment side of it. How do you go from intellectually talking about it or sharing these stories to looking for these small ways to share one's presence and move beyond the head?
Anne-Marie: It's hard for me to say how I embody it. But I feel that you're seeing each other as equal and as experiencing this life together and knowing that when you connect with another person there's an aliveness that happens. You want to experience that over and over again. When you're very deeply present with another person, there's such aliveness and joyfulness. We do these small things like giving something to another person in a small way, but when we do that enough it becomes almost second-nature.
Birju: Thank you. It's a small, consistent thing, as I hear it. How to actually share that intellectually, I don't have the answer, and that's why I was asking.
Anne-Marie: We're constantly seeing these opportunities in which we can connect, whether it's opening the door for another person or talking to your neighbor. It's seeing each other. With the act of kindness itself, it doesn't really matter what you're doing. It's the energy you're bringing forth with that. I've been the recipient of so many acts of kindness. When I was really sick, one of my close friends brought me a home-cooked meal. That was definitely nurturing, without a doubt. But the intention behind that touched me so much, because I didn't have the energy to cook, and she cared so deeply for my well-being. It's taking time to ask your neighbors how they're doing, and really asking them, "How are you today?" and being present with what they want to share. You'll feel that connection.
Birju: Anne-Marie, you've also dabbled in alternative approaches to care. You've become a certified yoga teacher and played around with holistic medicine and meditation. I wanted to get your take on your experience with that as an alternative to what you see in the workplace. How do you think about these two -- on different hands, or integrated?
Anne-Marie: Modern medicine definitely lends a lot of positives if you have a trauma or experience an emergency. I can't meditate a broken knee away. But when it comes to the micro-moments of care, and I think I mentioned pain management being a big one for me personally, I've found that meditation can be a great complement to that. Often I'll sit with my patients and guide them through a meditation. Sometimes I've given them some sort of pain management allopathically and seen the reaction in their bodies, relaxing even before that medication has time to set in. In guiding them through breath, allowing them to be aware of where that sensation is coming up, and bringing healing to that place itself, I've seen such an amazing response. So I've wanted to bring that more and more. It's not prescribed, per se, but I hope the opportunities for that will be effective and I want to create that for them. It's an important part of healing, these modalities, like nutrition, as I've said, which is one of the building blocks, and educating parents and patients on sources for where they can get holistic food.
The meditation portion is a very important aspect of my own journey. I remember feeling extremely anxious at work and feeling that I couldn't meet my patients' needs. I started having chest pains. I went to my own doctor, who told me I was having micro-panic attacks. He prescribed me Xanax, and I said "I can't take that. First, I'm at work when it happens, so there's got to be other ways." I did some of my own independent research and came up with yoga and meditation as a way of healing my own responses to that stress. I used that on a daily basis in very stressful situations. I use my breath, I use my meditation as a way of healing in that moment.
Caller: Thank you so much for your vulnerability and sharing so beautifully from your heart. My question is connected to these alternative healing modalities that you've explored in your life. You talked about how much commitment and dedication it took to finish nursing school and achieve that, how much support you received from your aunt who's like a second mother to you. I know that you took a break from nursing and that you decided to study yoga in Bali and serve in India for some time. It was a hard decision for you, and it required quite a leap of faith for you. Can you talk about how you were able to feel into your heart and realize that this was the right way to go? That it was okay to take a break from nursing for a little while?
Anne-Marie: Thank you for bringing that up. I had a bit of a challenging time because my family recognizes that through my career I have been a big support for them over the years. For me to want to completely disconnect from New York City and do something where I wouldn't be making money for possibly a few months, or for an unknown time.... But I felt it was really important for my personal journey to deal with facing fears of uncertainty and the unknown, and explore deeper the healing aspect of yoga. So I went to Bali and did a yoga teacher training there. When you immerse yourself in a different culture, too, there's so much growth that can happen because you're out of your comfort zone and you're experiencing life in a culture of others. I ended up going to a center and having my yoga teacher training there. But the center was very much immersed in this village. Their (the villagers') intention was to live very close to nature and do the least harm. So I got to practice a lot of farming and taking care of the land in addition to yoga, so it was very holistic.
After that I went to India, where service came to have such a different meaning for me. I feel like I've served in ways that are helpful, but when I went to India I had an experience that was just overwhelming. Service took on a whole new meaning for me, because there's such a deep level of care and unconditionality and letting go. People in the community there would stretch themselves beyond anything I had ever experienced before. I learned a lot about letting go, trusting, and following your heart in the moment.
Amit: Someone has written in online. They say "Hello, Anne-Marie. Thank you for being a part of this call. I wanted to join in, as I consider you a dear friend, but didn't get a chance to because I'm running after a little toddler. But I wanted to express what Anne-Marie means to many of us on the East Coast. We miss your hugs, your magnanimous and boundless energy, and most of all, your constant. strong, nurturing, and selfless nature. When I think of you or hear your voice I smile, laugh, and feel more positive about the world -- that there are angels like you who are always watching over us. The question I had for you was, Since you live a simple life and you're always giving, how do you find the energy to keep going with a smile during the days you're just exhausted after working long hours at the hospital? Do you feel fulfilled each night when you go to sleep? Lots of love, Sheryl."
Anne-Marie: There's a point when I come home very much drained. But what keeps me going is the community around me, these pillars of light that, even in their most exhausted state, continuously give of themselves through the late hours of the night, trying to figure out ways in which they can serve more deeply. That is something to be inspired by. My own life partner, who I see do just that, is often up late hours of the night. And you, Amit, I've known that, even this past summer, when we were doing the Service Space for the youths, you would be up late hours of the night on the East Coast while we were taking a conference call. It's really the community around me that keeps me going and inspires me to live in those ways and close to those values
Radha: Hi, this is Radha from Cupertino. I wanted to express my gratitude to Anne-Marie for your very calming and humble presence, though I've not met you personally. I'm a physician. I work in the hospital. I resonate with a lot of what you've said today. A couple of years of ago I was in a space of very negative energy. It became a job and a chore. That was not the purpose of why I became a physician in the first place. I think coming to Service Space and hearing so many things gave me a new vision. Last year on Audrey's call, there was one thing she said, and I see that echoed by you as well today, which is, "How you show up matters. How you show up to serve matters." What you've been saying today is about presence, that what you bring matters, and not what you say or do. As a secondary manifestation of this, I've taken that more mindfully into my own practice in my work as a physician.
We begin to see patients as a constant churning that happens, and this wheel turns really fast nowadays. They're getting patients, taking care of them, and discharging them, and sometimes it becomes a very exhausting experience rather than a nurturing experience, both for the patient and the nurse, and as a caregiver myself. What you've said today in terms of presence, and what Audrey said, made me go back a little bit and re-approach my job not as a job but as a privilege we are given. One experience with a patient recently made me realize what a privilege it is for me to actually take care of them. I started thinking, "How do I change the energy around me as well?" Because all I get is "Oh my God, all the consults, and I have to do this, and I have to do that, it's a job, I have to go on the weekend," and there's no joy in what we do. Our work is so important for so many reasons. I'm so thankful for all of you at Service Space, for you and Audrey and so many more who bring these values of gratitude, thankfulness and service to such a light that people like me are inspired and try to live that in their own small way. I have changed a little bit in terms of how I approach my job. But it is a work in progress. I wanted to say thank you so much for what you do.
Anne-Marie: I'm reminded of a quote by Gandhiji: "Do not expect thanks for your work. Work that is undertaken for love is no burden." It’s really important to remember that intention. Yes, it's exhausting when you're pulled in so many different directions and you want to be there for everybody all at once. We all come in with an intention to serve and to love, and I think we will get caught up in this moment where we're not able to hold those intentions all the time. I think that is where the frustration and exhaustion comes from. In trying to remember the micro-moments, slowing down in that moment, there is so much happening and so much connection and so much joy that can be transported from caregiver to patient or to anybody -- friends, family, anybody that you're in contact with.
Amit: One of our listeners, Guri, has written in. She says "Hi Anne-Marie, thank you for being on this call. Can you share a little bit more about your volunteer experience in India. It's not an easy country to be in, and on top of that, to be serving in such harsh conditions in the slums. How did you deal with the challenges that came along with it?"
Anne-Marie: Culturally it was very different from anything I've ever experienced, but no matter what culture I'm in, there's this basic desire to connect with another. For me it was challenging because I'm very autonomous in my work setting, and being overseas in a space in which the language was different, and I couldn't travel on my own, I felt I couldn't offer in the way that I might have been able to back home. But I learned it wasn't so much in doing, and my friend Audrey and I talked about this at length. Sometimes it's not what we're offering exactly, it's just showing up and being present, sharing a smile or sitting down with the children and just coloring with them. Bringing that presence of deep connection. I feel I learned a lot just in offering. No matter what it is, you always have something to give. It's more in the presence than in the actual deed.
Wendy: This is Wendy. I really appreciate all that Anne-Marie has said. I love the idea of the gratitude board. I also very much identified with the physician who called in. I just retired as a nurse-practitioner in a big system. Earlier there was talk about surviving and being able to give of yourself in a big system. And there were certainly days when I felt like a ping-pong trying to meet the needs of my patients, the administration, and my co-workers, and, frankly, became very frazzled. I had not always been as supportive as I'd like, and then, on the way home, beat myself up about that. What's also crucial and what I've had to work on is self-forgiveness. Perhaps this is not why I've gone into nursing, to be so frazzled, but to come back into myself and forgive myself so that I can get up the next day and give it my all again. So I wanted to add self-forgiveness into the conversation as well.
Anne-Marie: Thank you. That's so important. I remember, when I first became a nurse, I would come home crying. I would think, "Oh my Gosh, I forgot to give this to my patient, I forgot to give them linens," or "Maybe I could have been better in that moment." There was so much that I felt like I could have done better. It's definitely worth perfection, but also to forgive yourself for being human, and to go in with a strong intention to serve, and hold yourself to those intentions. Self-compassion is key. You can't give from an empty pitcher. You always have to refill yourself and to find ways in which you can fill yourself in order to fill others.
Mindyjourney: This is Mindyjourney. I'm calling from Illinois. A lot of times I'm on the KindSpring site. I want to express my sincere thank-you to the guest and to all who have made this call possible. Many times my family has been on the receiving end of excellent nursing care and doctoring. When my mother was in Hospice, she got to stay at home and the visiting nurses came. Some of the best moments were sitting there with the visiting nurse in the room of my mother, who was unresponsive. Yet there was a connection, and we felt a presence of connection and love. I have kept this in my heart. It has added a dimension to my life. When I visit those who are sick or who need care, I keep the vision of that beautiful nurse and what she meant to our family and to my mother. Thank you for all you do. I appreciate it.
Harpreet: My name is Harpreet and I was very touched by talking to you and meeting you, Anne-Marie. My heart lights up and says "Hello" whenever you’re there. When you're not at the Wednesday night meeting I'm always looking for you. It was so nice to hear you and to hear your story, finally. You talked about alternative practices and healings, and I wonder if you've ever done touch. I know you're very sensitive to energy. I wonder if you've noticed that making a difference with your patients.
Anne-Marie: I try to incorporate touch into my care. I do feel it's a huge privilege to enter into the energetic space of a patient, and for there to be so much trust. I do a lot of things that might not seem very healing. There are a lot of invasive things we have to do as nurses that don't feel good to the patient, at least immediately. But there's a process in which you deliver that, and even afterwards, such as embracing them in a hug, or holding a child when they're crying. Embracing them and enveloping them in this love and care in itself is really healing. Mothers know this very well; when a child is crying in pain you want to embrace them and touch them and soothe them. It melts away that discomfort. I've not had an experience of diving deeper into energetic healing, but I feel that we all are healers in that sense, that we can all bring touch and healing with that presence. I try to use it as much as I can, even when it comes to rubbing the back of a child while they're in pain, or bringing my hand to that source of pain and really trying to bring that energy of healing there. It's an area I'd like to explore more of, but I feel that it's innate in us. We all have that healing capacity with touch.
Seema: Hi, this is Seema. Thank you so much for your reflections and your stories. You're such a kind and gentle soul and it's been so nourishing to hear from you this morning. I was wondering if you could share some stories about how you extend that caring nature you have outside of the nursing work you do at the hospital. I recall reading a story on the Service Space blog about how you extended a helping hand to a neighbor who was in trouble. I was so touched by that story. I was hoping you could share a couple more stories of caring you do outside the hospital.
Anne-Marie: Thank you and thanks for asking. I have a hard time sharing things that I've done, but I know it's in service to others. So the thing that comes to mind with regards to last year is a friend I met at a childhood nursing assignment. The very first week I met this woman who happened to be from Finland as well, so we connected the very first day of orientation. I later found out that she was placed in the same complex as I was. I invited her over for tea at my place, and that very same night, she left and then a few minutes later came knocking on my door, frantic. She was in tears and crying and I asked "What happened?" Somebody had followed her to her apartment. Luckily nothing terrible happened, as she was able to avoid it. She ran and drove right to my place across the complex. She felt she couldn't return to her home, because this man could potentially harm her and knew where she lived. So I invited her to stay with me and live with me until there were other arrangements made. For me that was great. I had a new friend and cooked with her after work. I wanted her to know she had a safe space and that I was there to open up my home and my heart for her. We've all been in situations where we've really needed someone in a critical moment. I was overjoyed that I could provide that for her.
There've been times I've gotten calls at 3 in the morning from friends whose cars have broken down in the middle of the highway and I would go and pick them up. I feel really happy to do so. I know that I've been on the receiving end of that as well. It feels tremendous. You want to be able to provide that when you have the opportunity.
Amit: I was thinking of the wonderful job you did this summer mentoring our interns and how influential you can be, or any of us can be, in the lives of others. I'm curious if you can share who some of your key influences are that have made you the person you are today.
Anne-Marie: It's the people around me. I've been so blessed to be part of Service Space There are just so many pillars of light out there who are doing these amazing things. And in India too, learning of these amazing people like Rabuvai, who would deliver the food for the elderly ladies who were widowed in the slums. He would do this every single day. He wouldn't eat before he had delivered the meals to everyone. There are so many people within the community who continue to inspire me. I feel that I have a lot of work to do, because there's so much goodness out there and I could be so much better.
Birju: I want to close with gratitude. I have the unique opportunity to hear Anne-Marie's reflections on a more regular basis, and to have her be able to share her voice on the small things that, from this community's perspective, make a big difference. These weren't stories about how children were being saved from burning buildings, and the sensationalism we hear in the dominant paradigm isn't what it's about. It's small and it's subtle. To hear story after story of that, within the hospital setting or outside it… I'm just filled with gratitude that you have shared in this way. Thank you for joining us, Anne-Marie.
Anne-Marie: I've shied away from sharing this, but there have been others whose stories I've shared, and they've been inspiring, so I hope I can highlight a little of those values that I have taken from others into my own embodiment. I'm happy to share and very grateful to be on the call. Thank you everyone who joined today. I didn't know how many people were on the call (laughs), and I was kind of scared to even think about it. But just to hear that we've had people here to share from all over. I was totally blown away. Thank you for joining the call.