Charlotte A. Stout

If you missed an ealier post, this page has my previous April 2017 Reflection postings.
If you want to read some earlier Reflections, click on the links below for the month you are interested in:

March 2017February 2017January 2017

April 28th: Everything and Everyone is Breakable

Relationships, dishes, furniture, bodies, and anything else we can think of is breakable. It’s how we handle the breaking that matters.

Some of us are lucky enough to go through life untouched by failure, breakups, losses or illness. But, for most of us we will have life events that cause heartbreak and make us question our reason for being here. I have great respect for anyone who rises up and doesn’t give in to and break under the strain of difficult challenges.

During our life we are faced with complex relationships within and outside our blood family. Sometimes a look, a comment, a gesture can change what was a functioning relationship into one of discord. It might be an unintentional glance that is misinterpreted but causes a rift between friends, family members or co-workers. Often we don’t realize there is a rift until we attempt to connect with the other person and are met with hesitation, the cold shoulder or outright hostility. What do we do in these situations? I have found that ignoring the state of things is no solution. Asking the other party to have an honest and open conversation to address matters is a better alternative. If your offer is refused, keep asking in a sensitive manner until there is agreement that conversation is necessary to resolve the disharmony. This is not easy and in some cases it can take a long time to arrive at the point where people can sit down and share honestly. Be patient and take comfort knowing you are attempting to bridge whatever gap exists and continue to have hope.

The same is true when one is faced with a serious illness or an injury. You must have an honest conversation with yourself about the state of your health, what you want to happen, options, and your attitude. Anger over a health issue is natural and sometimes you must get angry to gain the internal fortitude to fight for good health. However, harboring anger over a health issue only leads to prolonging the condition. Get angry then get on with the business at hand of regaining good health.

We will not be able to avoid breaking things during our lifetime. I would like to suggest that you see the breaking as an opportunity to improve how we communicate, what we eat, how we take care of our bodies or what we do for a career or for fun. Along with the negative associated with breaking something or someone comes the chance to improve and create something even better than what existed before.

Bonne Chance!

April 21st: Compassion
“a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.”

Feeling compassion for others is a natural response when we see a friend struggling, a stranger with tears streaming down their face, a parent attempting to manage a disruptive toddler on a crowded bus, train or airplane. We may feel compassion when we see pictures of abused animals, children who are victims of chemical or armed warfare, victims of tornadoes, or any number of other atrocities that maybefall us on any given day.

Two things happened recently that made me really think about compassion toward others. First: At the restaurant where I volunteer I heard the story of a young woman – I will call her Susie - who is just thirty years old, is in an abusive relationship and is facing possible jail time because her abusive partner blamed a domestic disturbance on Susie when the neighbors called the police to resolve the issue. Susie has no family to turn to in the area. Susie called an aunt who lives in another state asking for help. The aunt contacted a friend who lives locally and that friend and the friend’s husband stepped in to help Susie. They went to court with Susie, have provided her with a place to stay, and are helping her get her life back on track. Is it easy? No! I spoke with the woman who has taken this young woman under her wing. I was told that Susie is really struggling to stay away from her boyfriend, the guy who blamed the domestic disturbance on her. I asked why she and her husband took Susie in. She didn’t hesitate to explain, “I needed help once and someone stepped in to show me compassion. It’s only right I do the same. I really feel for her and want to help her see that this is not the only life she can have.” Isn’t that the true definition of compassion!

Secondly: I was in the middle of playing pickleball and I saw a pickleball buddy walk toward the court I was on. She deposited her things and I noticed dark circles under her eyes and that the whites of her eyes were glassy and red. My heart hurt for her because it was obvious she was upset and I wanted to help. Again, that is a compassionate response to seeing someone in distress. I wanted to help and when I could I asked what was going on, listened, gave her a hug, let her cry a bit and then suggested we smack the ball around to release some of her angst. Within five minutes she was laughing and running around the court. Even if only for a brief period, recognizing her pain, acknowledging it, letting her vent and then redirecting her thoughts for however brief of a period as it was, demonstrated compassion in action.

If we all took a bit more time to really look at the people around us and recognize the signs of pain, hurt, fear, etc. and show some compassion we could make this world a better and happier place for everyone.

Think about it.

April 14th: Look Behind the Eyes

It’s so easy to look beyond a person while they are right there in front of you. We become distracted by our thoughts, something going on in the vicinity, the buzzing of a text message notification from our phone, resulting in lack of focus and losing sight of the person in front of us, what they are saying, may be feeling or experiencing.

William Shakespeare once said, “The Eyes are the Window to your soul.” I believe this. When I am rested and happy my eyes are a deep brown, vibrant and shiny. My eyelids are taught and my eyes appear to be smiling. When I am concerned, tired or sick my eyes are dull, my lids droop and the color turns mousy brown. My eyes are a window to my soul for sure.

I would like to propose an exercise. The next time you are with a friend be present, look at their eyes and attempt to see beyond the obvious. Is there something different? Are they brilliant, dull, scrunched, lined, arched, raised, droopy? Our eyes tell the story of what is going on with us at any given time. As a friend, it is incumbent upon us to be present enough to notice nuances that could signal something wonderful happening in our friend’s life or a challenge they may be facing.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. “You okay?” is innocuous enough to not insult or insinuate anything other than casual concern. Depending on how a person answers that simple inquiry will determine how you proceed. I rarely take “I’m ok,” as a good enough answer. I’m just one of those people who probes to get answers not to be intrusive but because I genuinely care.

Friendship is more than getting together for lunch, dinner, a play, hiking, a movie or whatever activity you enjoy. It is being present during these activities and looking behind the eyes of the person across from you to truly connect with and know your friend on a deeper level.

April 7th: “Advocate”

noun : a person who speaks or writes in support or defense of a person, cause, etc. (usually followed by of): a person who pleads for or in behalf of another; intercessor.

I have known for a long time how important it is to have someone, other than yourself, who is there to advocate for you in situations where you may be unable to do so. This became even more evident when helping a friend, I’ll call her Annie, who recently went through hip replacement surgery, faced some complications and was referred to a rehabilitative care facility following her release from the hospital.

The facility Annie was referred to is a “for-profit” facility approved by Medicare. Another friend and I arranged to see Annie the day she arrived at the facility. Annie had already been in the hospital for five days without a shower and was feeling grungy and emotionally low. I asked Annie when she would be receiving a shower and she said the nurse was very clear that each patient has specific shower days. Annie was scheduled for her first shower in two days – YIKES! – with the next one four days after that. I could see Annie was very distraught thinking that she had to lay in her own stink another two days and have the physical therapist exposed to her in her current state.

I told Annie we would see what we could do to accelerate the shower schedule. I approached the nurses station, where I was greeted with less than enthusiastic staff who grunted, “what?”

No smile, no “May I help you.” Not a whisper of concern, friendliness, empathy or urgency was noted. I explained Annie’s shower issue and asked what we could do to resolve this. I was told that if Annie received a shower today it would take her off the schedule for a shower in two days later and she would be waiting six days for a second shower. There was no give and take.

I asked if we could give her a shower “right now.” The three-staff people standing at the nurse’s station looked at me like I had three heads. I said, “What? May we give her a shower or not. I don’t think it’s right she arrives in a new place and has to sleep here her first night feeling dirty.” I asked and was assured that the shower we would give Annie today would not negate the shower to come in two days.

With the approval of the “powers that be but don’t care,” we helped Annie to the shower room, stripped her out of her clothes, showered her body, washed and conditioned her hair, dressed her in clean clothes, styled her hair, helped her brush her teeth and got her back into bed. We made the shower experience fun with lots of kidding around to alleviate the discomfort that goes with needing the help of others to bathe yourself.

This is not the only issue that has had to be managed during Annie’s stay. She has needed help with awful treatment from the staff, they treat you like your invisible; receiving appropriate medication in a timely manner; charting issues; communication between facility caregivers and the patient’s primary doctor; cleanliness of the facility; sanitary practices; and, the list goes on.

I am sure not all facilities are like the one Annie was sent to. Some may be better and some worse. What I learned through this experience is how important it is to have an advocate or advocates for you to ensure you receive the care you need in a manner that is respectful and in an environment, that promotes healing starting with the caregiver’s attitudes and service, all the way to the cleanliness of the facility and good nutrition. If Annie had not had some strong-willed friends to advocate on her behalf I hate to think of what her time in that place would have been like.

Please ensure you have an advocate clearly identified in your living will, health care directive or give verbal or written consent for a person or persons to advocate on your behalf whenever you are or think you may be unable to do so yourself.