Lately, I have felt a large sense of emptiness. I feel a lack of genuine, fulfilling, interaction with the people I love. I spent the past two and a half years working at a nursing home full time M-F and taking full time classes in the evenings. That left my M-F from 7a-9p blocked out. Two and a half years. I was lucky if I could leave my bedroom on weekends during the semester. I switched jobs, and now work part time MWF from 6:45a - 5p and take classes on T/Th from 8a-10p. Same thing, essentially. I feel like I’m missing out on so much life. I’m 23 and living like I’m much older. Sure, I talk to my co workers and classmates, and I do enjoy random social outings with acquaintances but to be honest the times we get together are fairly superficial. My three best friends all live in other states now, my family is over an hour away, and my other college friends all graduated and moved back to their hometowns. The ones that are still here, are in the same boat as me. Too busy and overcome with responsibilities to enjoy anything remotely genuine. I truly hope that when I graduate this spring I will have more time and freedom to travel to see my friends and family. I miss them so much. Texting and calling can’t replace any time spent with them. Nor can online social networks. All I really want to do is re-establish a real life, strong, social network. I feel depleted. And alone.
Lately, I have been working to phase out processed and less-healthier foods. I would say that my success rate has been about 70%. While I have been working on this, however, I have considered phasing out excess coffee consumption. I absolutely love coffee - I grind it, brew it, buy it, drink it, and drink it faithfully. I love the taste, the many ways it can be made, and the energy it gives me. Unfortunately, this can be too much energy at times. When I drink too much coffee, the caffeine accelerates my already reactive nature, leading to aggressive or hyper-emotional states. On top of its psychophysiological effects, it makes my heart beat faster than a race-horse. One time, during finals week at Temple, I had stayed up for over 36 hours running solely on caffeine. I had coffee on Sunday afternoon, a latte sunday evening, iced coffee Monday morning, hot coffee at lunch, and another iced coffee after work and before class. I felt sick and started to tremble. It was at that point that I realized I could no longer continue to drink 6 cups per day.
Lately, however, with the start of a new semester and picking up a brand new job with long hours, I began to slip back into the vicious caffeine cycle. Wake up tired, drink coffee, go to bed wired, wake up tired, and so on. I’ve been having trouble sleeping, and I think a lot of it has to do with the excess consumption of coffee. I have decided to limit my coffee intake to one serving per day, and only before 12 PM, and in an effort to reduce my junk food intake, I am going to attempt to lay off the cream/sugar/flavors.
Wish me luck!
If there is one lesson that I have learned in the past few months, it would be to remain kind and humble. It has gotten me further spiritually and socially than any instance of arrogance would.
Today, I went to the viewing and service for one of the residents who lived in the retirement and nursing home at which I worked for two years. His name was Ken Farragut. He was a former player for the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1950’s. I knew Ken very well and became close to him very quickly. I first ‘met’ him when I spoke to him on the phone when he’d call to speak to his wife, who had already been living here. I finally met him when he came in for a visit and I was instantly drawn to him. He had a strong southern drawl and a knack for making people laugh. Later down the road, he ended up moving in to the facility as well. We were all overjoyed. We loved Ken and his sense of humor. Who could blame us? He was extremely personable, and to be honest I don’t recall anybody who didn’t like him. Over his time at The Hill, I got to know him very well, as I saw him every day 5 days a week. As we got closer, I became a sort of confidant for him (and many other residents). This is where that line between resident and ‘friend’ began to diminish. The Hill has a strong policy regarding fraternization between employees and residents, however this was almost impossible to abide by. For many of these residents, this is their final living place and because they are alone and disconnected from their world, we become their second family. Being the caring person that I am, I don’t have the heart to deny the love and sense of security many residents seek. This is not to say that Ken’s (or any resident’s) family is not involved; just that a total change of environment can be difficult to adjust to, and as a staff member if you can keep them at ease it makes it easier to adapt. Back to this fine line, though. If you keep your distance and restrict your contact to the resident work related, it’s a lot easier to accept and move forward from events such as decline in health, diagnosis of disease, hospice, or the inevitable death. But that’s just not me. I left The Hill in January and said my goodbyes to my residents and made letters/cards with photos for my favorite longterm care residents, Ken and his wife being two of them. I left with every intention of returning to visit, but due to the start of a new job and a new semester at school, it wasn’t going to happen until at least March. So when I found about Ken’s decline and then his death, I was heartbroken. I felt like I lost a good friend. Fast forward to today, the day of the funeral. I made plans with Michelle, Ken’s nurse, to go to to the service together. When we first came in, I saw a few of his family members who all hugged me and were thankful to see me there. Three of them noted how much they enjoyed the letters I wrote to Ken and his wife when I quit my job. I got to hug his sons whom I also knew from their frequent visits and our planning of his many doctor appointments. I also got to hug his wife and his daughter. It hurt to watch them cry and see them in a sorrowful state. Next was the viewing. This part was extremely hard for me. Although I have lost several people close to me, this was only my second open casket viewing, and I couldn’t process or accept that it was indeed him in the casket. I grabbed Michelle’s hand and made every effort not to break down. How could the once animated, loud, and humorous man I used to hug every day suddenly become so serene and still? It still hurts, but to know that he is finally in peace brings about a sense of relief for me. After the viewing, Michelle and I looked at the posters filled with memories of Ken’s entire life, from his conception, to his funeral. He was so handsome as a young man, and by the photos displayed, we could tell he lived one hell of a life. The pictures served as a bittersweet reminder to enjoy life and everything that comes with it. When our time comes to depart from our worldly existence, and our survivors must honor our lives and legacies, do we want them to mourn our hardships or revel in our grandest milestones? I know Ken lived a wonderful life and lived it to its fullest potential. I am honored to have known and served him during his last years of life. I will miss him dearly. Although I have my qualms about what happens to the spirit following the death of the physical body, I truly hope that his soul is at peace, and omnipresently watching over us. May he rest in peace and may we all savor the time we are granted between conception and the funeral. I love you, Ken.
If you feel overwhelmed, breathe. It will calm you and release the tensions.
If you are worried about something coming up, or caught up in something that already happened, breathe. It will bring you back to the present.
If you are moving too fast, breathe. It will remind you to slow down, and enjoy life more.
Breathe, and enjoy each moment of this life. They’re too fleeting and few to waste.