My year anniversary of leaving everything known to venture out into the world of traveling OT is quickly approaching. All of my possessions for my daily life fit in my car and I left all the furniture items in storage. Honestly, I could get rid of another 50% of those things. It is funny how physical items matter less now. I gain great satisfaction with slowly releasing more items at the completion of an assignment. It is a game I play to get rid of one suitcase full of items every 6 months.
Without a permanent home, there is almost nothing to buy that stays with me long term. I really can’t accumulate much, as it needs to fit in my car. My spending and saving rituals have changed greatly over the past year. Previously, I believed that experiences mattered more than things, yet now I am living that belief full time. I spend my money on exploration, adventures, great food, and even better wine. It is still an adjustment to figure out what to do with all of the time that I used to spend on tidying up my home.
I am off from work this week. It is a real struggle to actually relax and veg out. Work friends laugh at my challenge. It is only Tuesday and I have done EVERYTHING I wanted to do for the week. Friday I head to Bisbee, AZ for a weekend adventure. The rest of the week will be dedicated to hiking (weather permitting) and trying to stay in PJs most of the day. I am not so sure how that is going to work out.
The lessons I learn along this adventurous year continue to evolve, but there is a main theme of gratitude. No matter where you are there will be love and loss. I am so thankful to be experiencing those emotions in a new environment with different people. It may be an illusion, yet it is not with the same people in the same places anymore! I am forced to reach out to trusted friends and family who don’t live anywhere near me for love and support. I am stronger emotionally and physically than I think I am. It is okay to say that life is hard and sucks at times. There is great power in continuing to push forward in times of distress, as there is love right around the corner and a phone call away. Nature has a way of soothing my soul. The more I am in it the better I feel. Finding friends can be really hard, but a kind smiling soul is easy to locate just about anywhere. We decide where to place our focus. My current lesson is to honor the emotions no matter what they are, especially the sad ones. Rather than run from them, I strive to ask for love and support as I navigate them. I am forever grateful to all who do this for me, especially the ones who have no idea how much they help.
I love what I do. I know why I do what I do. Bringing independence back to others by any means necessary with joy and laughter is what I do best. I am a problem solver by nature, always seeking solutions and options. Professionally, this solution seeking has protocols, a sequence and extensive training filled with mentors. Personally, I suppose that is kind of true as well, yet much more difficult to navigate at times. The people I serve in home health remind me daily how important the little things are. Focusing on the spectacular simple life moments has made this year worth every moment!
Who knows what the next year will bring. I am certain it will include joy, love, challenge, tears, sweat and adventure while my boundaries of comfort continue to shatter.
I will try to do this entry while in the raw emotional state that I find myself in currently. Bear with me as it is so hard to put raw feelings into words that make sense. Those of you who see me daily would never know the struggle that happens inside me sometimes. I save the truth for lonely nights. The past 4 and a half years have been an uphill climb on my hands and knees while I try to create my new life. The saying “mountains are meant to be climbed not carried” holds a special place for me. As I have a way of trying to carry every mountain I ever climbed. There are times when I am able to put them down and that time of release is lasting longer now. This transition in life has been filled with amazing experiences as well as awful ones. For a while I would have sworn I was living the life of a country song. You know how it goes; lose the dog, house, truck, job, friends, and lover.
Companionship is something I have been on a quest to find pretty much for as long as I can remember. This companionship quest needed to start with me getting to know me after the story of my life blew up in my face. Dating myself has revealed so much about what brings me joy and for the first time in my life I actually like who I am. I love spending time with me and going out by myself to see what shows up is fun. This practice has brought some amazing people into my life that have left marks on my heart. Some of those marks are wonderful and other marks broke my heart even more. But I have not given up on my quest for companionship.
In my quest I have had a year of first dates which I could write a book on. Stay tuned for that one! I have left my hometown of 22 years and now rent a room in the homes of loving families. I opened my heart to love another man again and found so many kind words, promises, and abandonment. I just want a companion to move through this new chapter in life. Not even the kind of companion that blends all of life together in a suffocating and limiting way. Just a companion that would have integrity and show up to share some of life’s experiences together. Oh and I know it is selfish but, I want a person that I feel a connection with.
Over the past 4 and a half years, my true companions stood up proudly as the impostors dropped off one by one. My parents, brothers, sisters-in-love, and girlfriends root for me from all different corners of the country. That being said there is still a void in my life. That space previously overflowed as there wasn’t enough time in the day to take care of all the responsibilities of life with kids, a house and husband. Now I have more time than responsibilities. Which means I am alone with myself A LOT! I am great company, but even I get tired of me. Now that I like myself in a brand new way, and I enjoy being with me I simply don’t want to do all of my time alone. I have taken every step possible to rebuild the emotional reserves, but honestly, they have not been replenished since life through me the curveball of divorce coupled with an empty nest.
My brother and sister-in-love came to visit last weekend. It was heavenly! I am not being dramatic, it really was great. It was companionship live and in person. My heart soared! I knew they were going to shoot straight with me about my struggles with dating, and I welcomed it. I felt loved and belonging where I gave myself permission to be raw and put down the mask. Everything just flowed and was filled with loving laughter. It really didn’t matter to me at all what we did together, I just wanted to be with them. Something surprised me when our time together came to an end. I felt such a loss and sad as I to return to daily life alone.
This sounds pathetic and woe is me. I have so much love around me from the loving couple I live with now to my regular chats with girlfriends and family. Yet times like these suck the life right out of me. Learning from the past is so important to me as I am ready to stop the repeated heartache. Even as I type this, it is likely that I will repeat the process a few more times (ugh!). I have no “right” to feel what I feel when looking at the life I have created over the past 4 and a half years, but I feel what I feel. Having grace and patience with myself on days like today is my goal, and it is not easy. I continually ask the Universe what is the lesson that I am to learn. There is never an answer I can hear! There has been such an alarming number of ghosting experiences from potential companions. I suppose it is possible the Universe is kicking the wrong people out of my life at a much faster rate so I don’t lose another decade to the wrong man. Thank you, but could you allow me to catch my breath for a minute. As I don’t believe the point is to become hardened, closed and cynical about humanity. I took a road trip 4 years ago and remembered how incredible people are. Now I am experiencing what feels like punishment for feeling hope when I meet a potential male companion.
With the gift of making everything my fault, I find myself scrutinizing every action I make. That helps to create the mountains I carry. It feels as though I am on the cusp of something epic. I just don’t know if in the end if it will look like a breakthrough or a breakdown. We will just have to wait and see! In the meantime, it is far overdue to put the mountains down and set me free. As a person who constantly wants to do something, this is a time when I have to focus on being. The hard part to that is I am not sure if I am doing this being thing right. I just laugh as I read that aloud! The rawness has passed as I have just put one of the emotional mountains down. As the weight of the past is so heavy; I am putting it down. Now I just need to leave it there!
I get that question several times a day. The name of my job is misleading and creates a great deal of confusion when working with the retired population. I am an Occupational Therapist. Patients typically say, “I don’t want an occupation.” I giggle and shake my head as I begin the explanation of my profession. Over the 25 years of practicing as an OT, my explanation has changed greatly. I now get to the point in 3 sentences.
“I hustle independence and change lives one shower chair at a time. Add a suction cup grab bar and now we are talking! Anything that is important to you, I will work to make you as independent as possible in doing.” Then they are the ones nodding their head with delight.
Occupational Therapists work with people from cradle to just before grave striving to bring function and independence to the lives of people using any creative means available. I currently work in home health with the geriatric population. This is the setting where people are the most comfortable and I am the guest in their home. My challenge is to make their environment safe and conducive to independence in their Activities of Daily Living (bathing, dressing, etc). This may sound simple, sometimes it is, but often times it is not! Providing treatment in someone’s home brings with it wonderful stories!
One very favorite moments of my career occurred during my current assignment. I imagine my state of mind impacts my treatment style. I realize that it is the very simple things in life that make life worth living. One of the first questions I ask the lucky contestant (patient) whom I have the privilege of coming into their home to offer OT, is, “What is most important to you to be able to do for yourself again?” The answers are ALWAYS something simple that the majority of us take for granted on a daily basis.
What people want most ranges from things like washing their own hair without pain, baking for their family, taking a shower by themselves, gardening, or just getting dressed without help. No matter what all of the desired tasks are important to bringing independence and life back to the individual.
Recently I was faced with a new and unique challenge. A patient wanted to be able to get into his walk-in Jacuzzi tub. It is the kind of tub modified for individuals to walk into, sit down on the built-in chair, close the door, fill it up with hot water, and enjoy. This is a fantastic tub and usually easy to get into, however, this particular patient brought a new set of challenges. He is not able to put any weight on one leg, due to recent surgery. There is also limited movement in both shoulders due to arthritis and with that comes decreased strength. In addition to these specific limitations, this wonderful person has great challenges sitting up nor can he stand without a great deal of help. So when he says “The most important thing to me is to get in that Jacuzzi tub.” My response is, ” Absolutely! I will do everything in my power to make that happen.”
On my next visit after I spent the weekend strategizing how in the world I was going to make this happen, I found myself saying, “Are you ready for this? We are getting in there today!”
He looks at me with frightful delight, and says, “Are you serious?”
I reply, “Yes, I am! Do you trust me?”
Now it was his turn to say, “Absolutely! Let’s do this!”
How many people does it take to get one patient into an adapted tub? Three; 2 therapists and a loving caregiver. The smallest one has to be inside the tub that is made for 1 person, as the patient is wheeled up to the tub door with his feet placed inside the tub. The other therapist is on the left of the patient and the loving caregiver is on the right. A gait belt is in place snuggly around the low waist of the patient. On the count of 3, I lift and the other 2 brace the patient who is about an inch from my face. Therapy is NOT for people who have issues with personal space. As the pivot begins we realize the patient is not wearing a sock to allow for the one foot that can bear weight to spin. Gracefully, he is returned to sitting in his wheelchair.
I was the therapist pinned in the tub and called to the fearless team for a sock. As I begin to bend forward to put the sock on, I quickly realize there is very limited space! I damn near have to fold in half to get to his foot. I hike my leg on the built-in seat and bend forward to reach his foot. In putting on this sock my head is situated between his knees and damn near between my own knees at the same time. Another note about this profession, you have to remain professional at all times no matter what position you may find yourself in while helping a patient achieve their goals. This particular patient has a great sense of humor and a quick wit about him.
As I am silently struggling to get this sock on and I hear the patient, my coworker PT and loving caregiver cracking up. I try to lift my head to look to see what they are laughing at. Quickly I recognize that it is me they are laughing at. I try to shush them as I start laughing. Next thing I hear is my beloved patient saying something about my precarious position. If I could have fallen to the floor laughing I would have, instead, I break out into a sweating embarrassed blush from head to toe. I am not typically one to blush easily, but in this position, I could not help it. Of course, this laughter and embarrassment slow down my ability to put his sock on. Finally, I pop up and they erupt into even harder laughter as I am beet red and sweating.
Finally, everyone is calm enough to try round two of this tub transfer. 1,2,3 up, spin and sit on the chair inside the tub. The patient is amazed to find himself exactly where he wanted to be and did not believe it was possible. Of course, I am in the tub with him and have to climb over him to get out so the door can be shut. More laughter and silly comments are made while the sweating blush returns. I find my way out of the tub and close the door as the room falls silent. We are all in awe that this, what seemed like an impossible goal, has become a reality. To top it off, it is safe and possible for his caregiver to do with him. He sits in the dry tub and soaks in the reality of what just happened. As he turns to look at me and says “Thank you! You are amazing!” At that moment I am reminded that I know why I do what I do. The room then erupts in cheers and high fives. We are all amazed that this teamwork was so successful. It took all 3 of us to make this goal a reality.
His smile and gratitude fill everyone in the room with delightful joy! He is so appreciative and grateful for making his dream of getting in the tub again a reality. I am reminded of how it really is the simple things in life that make it worth living! All I did was help a man get into a tub. How many of us are grateful every time we get into the shower safely? I know that I am in the right profession even if the name is confusing. I thrive on bringing independence back to people. The wildcard is learning what desired independence looks like to each person.
Every day is different. Sometimes I get it right for the right person at the right time and magic happens in front of me. Other times there can be epic fails. The wonderful part is you never know when magic will happen, so I just keep asking, “what is the most important thing for you to do for yourself again?”
I am so thankful to my 20 year old self who worked so hard in college to make this career possible for me to continue enjoying 25 years later!