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Archive for the ‘Lessons Learned’ Category

I reached a major milestone this week…I drove home on Wednesday. Loading the car was an adventure as I overthought about putting the back seat down or what order to load things in. I made sure everything was at a weight I could safely lift so I put twice as many bags into the car to come home as I did when I left home.

Stopping half-way at a café for a Chai Latte (first time I’ve had one of those) was quite good. I drove the last half hour home feeling determined and relatively pain-free. When I got home a friend was waiting to unload the car which was wonderful. We had a quick visit and she left.

A friend and colleague stopped by with his adorable new puppy and we had a cup of coffee and a lovely visit for about an hour.

I unpacked my clean clothes, toiletries, electronics and groceries. I took my time as I did all these things, stopping for a sit down and a cup of tea or glass of water. Then I had a lovely hot shower in my own shower, put on clean pajamas and snuggled into a freshly made bed. Bliss.

I was wide awake at 2:00 am. I wasn’t fretting about it, I realised it was because I’d had a cup of coffee at 4:00 pm and that was my first cup of coffee since I’d left home. Jeez.

Since I got home I’ve continued unpacking and making lists of chores to do, all fun little things like setting up a new recycle station in my storage cupboard. I bought some indoor plants and plant pots and plan to transplant them into pots with better drainage. I have two small sewing projects to take on.

I’ve been out to appointments, and while I’ve seen parishioners, given and received hugs, “shop talk” has been an absolute minimum. And I don’t feel guilty about that.

I’m still working on the “deep dive” and there’s still some yucky stuff to deal with, yet I’m striking a balance.

Yesterday I saw my family doctor in the morning and my counsellor in the afternoon. At the end of our session she remarked that this was the first session we’ve had where I didn’t talk about work for the entirety of the session. She said I look calmer, happier and healthier then she’s ever seen me. She said she was proud of me! I said I was proud of me too! Then she asked the difficult question…”So, how are you going to maintain this level of self-care when you go back to work?”

Fair Question.

The answer is difficult but necessary. Boundaries, communication and the realisation that I am just as entitled to look after myself as I am to look after everyone else. I don’t have to and shouldn’t have to put my needs last.

It’s taken me 52 friggin’ years, and I am finally understanding that I am a good person, a kind person, and I matter. I am going to continue treating myself as well as I treat everyone else. And sometimes even better. 🙂

My relationship with food is still a big trigger and it’s part of the icky stuff I need to work through. I weighed myself before I had surgery and again when I got home and was shocked that I had lost 7 lbs. I’m not yet back to full-strength. I can’t walk as quickly as I was able to before because of an issue with my left foot.

I have not yet learned to be bored. I’ll need to apologise to my Bishop for that. Instead I’ve begun to daydream again. To take notice of my surroundings, be fully present when I eat and drink. To sit comfortably in silence or listen to music.

I’ve started writing poetry again…which I haven’t done since 1991.

This is work I’ve needed to do for years, no, decades. It’s brutally difficult work and I’m nowhere near finished. And yet I cannot imagine making time to do this work. I’m so very grateful that I’ve taken the time.

All it took was a hysterectomy and oopherectomy to make me take the time to do it.

I’ve missed my Parish and parishioners. I’m looking forward to being back to work, and doing God’s work in our small corner of Creation.

For the first time in a very long time I feel content.

Thanks be to God.

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It’s been a rough week. I’m struggling physically to balance how I think I feel and how I actually, physically feel. When I wake up in the morning I assess how I’m feeling and what I think I can do. Most days I wake up feeling relatively okay. My sleep is not great yet, I have very vivid and strange dreams that I’m putting down to the anaesthetic leaving my system.

I start my day with prayer and then make a cup of tea, decide what to eat for breakfast and what I think I can/should do.

The other day I woke up feeling pretty good. Said my prayers, had some tea and toast and then decided to clean the bathroom. Not the floors, just the sinks, counters and toilets. Shouldn’t have cleaned the toilets. Probably shouldn’t have cleaned any of it, but I like restoring order and making things clean.

I decided to go for a walk, just to get out of the house. Got to the end of block in front of the house and fell. I stepped on some ice covered snow, which I thought was just snow. I fell onto my backside, much to the amusement of a family of deer who were reclining on the front lawn. It took awhile to get myself upright and once I did I came back into the house, had a shower and put clean pajamas on. Enough adventure for one day.

My car is buried. Not completely, but there is a burm in front of it that I have no idea how to move. I know right now I can’t physically move it. Honestly, I don’t know if I am strong enough yet to drive.

It’s frustrating.

I see all kinds of things that I’d like to do, little things I’d like to take care of, and I absolutely physically cannot do them. It makes me feel helpless. For someone who prides herself on being fiercely independent, this is an awful struggle.

I’d like to change my bed, but I can’t. I’d like to do the laundry, but I can’t. And before I allow myself to surrender, I feel completely helpless.

I’ve started a journal – a deep dive – into discovering who I am. I take great pride in being a pastor, priest, prophet, and minister. I am proud of the education I have, especially how hard I worked to obtain it. It makes me feel very good when I am recognized in the community where I live and introduced as the pastor, priest or minister to another person.

Yet when you peel all of that away…when it’s just me and God, who am I? Can I be me without the titles? Without the education? Without the knowledge?

Anyway, that’s what I am exploring in bits and pieces and it’s really difficult work. The answer to “Who am I”? is “I am a Child of God”. Yet the examination of the pieces of me, the motivation for doing what I do and being who I am is difficult. It’s dark and it’s lonely and it’s work only I can do.

So as I continue to heal internally, and recognize that the doctor’s told me 6 weeks recovery FOR A REASON, I am shifting my focus from the physical to the spiritual, mental, internal me. She has not had a lot of care given to her for a long, long time. And as much as my body needs to be nurtured, so does she.

I will continue to physically heal. I will continue to emotionally dive. And I pray by the time I am back to work, both will be in good order. A lot of work between now and then, but I’m worth it.

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All my life I’ve been a person who needed to be in control. I like lists and plans. I like maps and organization. At times I hold so tightly to control that I begin to lose control – and not in a good way.

A friend told me before I went into hospital that I needed to surrender. I would be on their time, not mine. Things would happen as the nurses, doctors, surgeons, etc., decided they would. As they had time for these things. It bothered me at first, yet once I began to wake from anaesthetic and realised I was not in control of anything, the word surrender loomed large.

It was my first experience staying overnight in hospital. I was not prepared for the noise – one room-mate complained about everything, loudly, all night. Another room-mate decided she was going home and there was nothing anyone could do or say to dissuade her. The compression stockings I wore made noise all night, setting off the complaining room-mate.

I tried to stay as quiet as I could, as small as I could and as comfortable as I could. It seemed it was every two hours my night nurse would come and check on me. Did I need pain meds, water, apple juice or reassurance. She was incredible in putting my overwrought mind at ease.

I had been texting with a friend, sharing my concerns and they replied “remember, you are just as important as anyone else in there. You deserve help as much as anyone in there. You’re not bothering the nurses, you are helping them look after you.” This was shared by my night nurse when I confided I was frightened and had never been overnight in hospital.

I was connected to a catheter and an IV. I wasn’t going anywhere without assistance. And so, about 2:00 am, I imagined the word SURRENDER and did just that.

I’d love to say there was a magic transformation that overcame me. Wouldn’t that be grand? And yet…no.

Surrender looked a lot like acceptance. There’s nothing I can do about being immobilised. I can’t fight it. There’s no point in whinging about it. When I found myself getting anxious about timelines, I realised that I needed to see the surgeon and he would decide when I would be discharged.

He came to see me at 8:00 am and we discussed how I was feeling and if I felt I was ready to go home. I told him I was very tired and wanted to sleep in a familiar bed. We decided I would be discharged at some point Friday afternoon and he left.

Catheter and packing were removed and I was able to get up and walk a bit. Trying to navigate with the IV pole was less than graceful, and thankfully I didn’t roll over anyone’s toes. Once the IV was stopped, walking was easier to do yet still painful.

I am now 6 days post-surgery. I still have pain yet it is completely manageable. I have stopped taking the narcotic medication and am using over the counter meds. I’m not moving much, yet try to move every couple of hours. I have a water bottle or tea cup at all times to stay hydrated and while that’s good, it is waking me in the night. In some ways that’s good because it means I am moving.

This afternoon I am going to the grocery store with my “responsible adult” and “service human” (one in the same), who will make sure I don’t lift, and I can have access to my favourite things to eat.

I’m cleaning up my diet. Removing processed foods. Reintroducing meat. I’m craving vegetables. I’m reading a lot about “clean eating” and eating closer to nature. I’m listening to my body more and surrendering to this slow and frightening process.

This afternoon I’m meeting by phone with my counselor. I’ve been looking forward to speaking to her for a couple of days.

I’ve surrendered to the fact that I need to take things slowly. I need to listen to my body. I need to nurture myself. And I need to go only one day at a time. I am nowhere near establishing a routine. I get up and have tea, take my meds, drink orange juice, water and then make a travel mug of tea to sip on for the morning. I eat a bit of breakfast. I relax and decide if I want to “do” something, or if I need to rest. And then I do that.

Surrendering that I am where I need to be and I need to love myself more. I keep telling myself that I’m worth the time and attention that I’m taking. And I hope, eventually, that I’ll believe that.

And until then, surrender. And breath.

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Three long days ago I had a total hysterectomy and oophorectomy. I have no ovaries or womb left. I have many friends and parishioners who have been through these procedures and they have given me wonderful advice. Combined with the advice from the surgeon there is one thing in common – breath.

I remember sitting in the post-operative area. I’d walked there from the surgical screening area (Day Care) and was visited by the Anaesthesiologist who was wearing a Nascar cap. Also, my surgeon came to visit me, wearing a plain blue cap. Finally the surgical nurse came to see me, wearing a floral surgical cap. All three of them talked about what they were going to do, and at some point I’d have an oxygen mask on my face and I’d need to take deep breaths. Okay, I thought. I can do that. I breathe every day!

I walked into the operating room and it was chilly. I sat down on the table, then lay down and there was a lot of activity as IV’s were inserted, surgical stockings were installed, instructions were given, checklists were shared. One of my favourite moments was when the surgeon asked what was happening to me and I replied “hysterctomy and oophorectomy” and the Anaesthesiologist said “oophorectomy or Oopsorectomy”. I laughed. Nobody else did.

Tough crowd.

I remember a mask placed over my mouth and nose and being told to take deep breaths. Then a medicine was added to my IV which I was told would take me to the Land of Nod. Took one more deep breath…

and then…

I was aware of an alarm sounding and a nurse telling me “Andrea, take deep breaths”. The alarm was an apnea alarm. I wasn’t drawing enough air into my lungs and I would stop breathing. I wear a device at night so this doesn’t happen at home. As I said I’ve been breathing my entire life, yet for some reason I had difficulty drawing a lung full of air.

I’d doze off for what felt like half an hour and the alarm would sound again “Andrea, deep breaths” I’d hear and respond and then look at the clock…usually only 2 or 3 minutes had gone by. That was worrying and frustrating. Had I forgotten how to breathe?

Eventually I made it to a room for the night. Surgical day care was deserted of all other patients when I was ready to go upstairs, and I didn’t mind staying where I was. It was quiet. The nurses were lovely and I was quite prepared to spend the night there. But no.

Up to the second floor I went to spend the night in a ward with three other women. I’ll share more of those stories later on.

The night nurse found and filled my CPAP machine so I could breathe while sleeping and I slept on and off all night. Waking about every two hours for pain medication or water.

At 4:00 pm I was finally discharged by my surgeon who gave me a list of things to do, milestones to watch for, and a reminder to take deep breaths.

It’s funny, our life begins with a deep breath and then often a cry. I’ve found lately I’ve found myself crying and then searching for deep breaths. One of the promises I made myself, is that as I move through six long weeks of recovery, I will take things slowly (I’m down to measuring one day at a time), I will be aware of my body and my surroundings. I will listen to my body and it’s needs. And I will breathe.

I will take deep breaths when I’m uncertain.

I will take deep breaths when I’m afraid.

I will take deep breaths when I’m not doing anything in particular.

I will take deep breaths before I attempt to exert myself.

All in all, I’m extremely grateful to the surgeons, nurses, doctors and staff who cared for me so beautifully. I was treated as a person, as a member of the family. My night nurse spent time talking to me as I shared my fears with her at my first overnight stay in hospital. She listened carefully. She responded thoughtfully and she reminded me “Andrea, you’re not bothering me when you ask for something, you are allowing me to care for you and help you get strong enough to go home. When you tell me what you need, I can help you get well. It’s not a bother, it’s my job.” This coming from a nurse who graduated in April. She’s a Rockstar!

So as I move through the next days I will remind myself to take deep breaths. As I snuggle in for the night, pulling on my CPAP mask. Deep breaths, clear your mind.

Deep breaths, clear your mind.

Deep breaths.

Thank you God for breath.

Thank you Ruah, breath of God.

Deep breaths.

Ruah…

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It’s been awhile since I logged on to my blog. When I tried tonight it asked for my password and it wouldn’t work. So I had to reset my password and taaa daaa it now works!

I’ve been waiting for awhile to have surgery. A hysterectomy. It’s happening the day after tomorrow. I don’t know what time yet as I have to call in the morning to find that out. I’m going to be off work for 6 weeks, which is the longest I’ve ever been away from work in my 52 years of living. I’m quite anxious about that.

I’ll be staying with a good friend in the community where the surgery is happening. It’s an hour+ drive from home. He is listed as my Emergency Contact, also known as The Responsible Adult. It’s a title he QUITE enjoys. Me? Not so much.

It will be a challenge to listen to my body for 6 weeks and not overdo it. I am fiercely independent and also quite private. Asking for help is not something I do well. Both congregations have been incredible in offers of help. From driving me to the hospital and picking me up to arranging meals once I am back in my own flat. It’s difficult for me to accept the help and yet I know accepting it is the right thing to do.

I have a bag packed with books, crafting projects, a cake of yarn to make a baby blanket and three journals. One will be for keeping track of my post-op recuperation, i.e. pain levels, emotional space, eating, drinking, etc. A good reference for when I see the docs for follow up.

Another journal will be for my “regular’ journaling about what is happening in that crazy brain of mine. And the third is the ideas journal for when I have an “a-ha” in the middle of the day or the middle of the night. I will jot things down there and then leave them alone until I’m back to work. Hopefully.

My main intention as I heal physically is to do a deep dive into my psyche and try to unravel the root of my anxiety, depression, OCD, etc. It won’t be pretty, but it will be necessary. And my “regular” journal will be where I unravel all this stuff. I was talking with a colleague this afternoon who offered prayers and when I told him about the deep dive he asked what I’m going to do with all the “stuff” I dredge up. I told him I haven’t the foggiest idea.

We sat in companionable silence for awhile and then he told me he hoped in five years time I would look back at this hospitalisation as a wonderful opportunity for personal growth. I pray he is right.

Lately my life doesn’t seem to be working properly. I love my vocation. I’m happily busy. But my insides are a mess. I’m not eating properly. I’m not sleeping properly. My skin is itchy, my guts are a mess and I don’t feel right “in myself”.

My deepest desire is when I get back from convalescing I will be stronger mentally, physically and spiritually. I will learn to balance my time better. To build in moments of silence, of stillness and of peace.

A friend of mine is retiring in June and he’s been inundated with people asking him what he’s going TO DO with his time. He’s frustrated with the question, because it lends itself to the unhealthy ideal that we are what we do. It insinuates that once he retires he will have no personal identity.

What he plans on doing is whatever he pleases. He will focus on BEING, rather than on DOING. That is such a great message; such a great lesson for everyone. And it’s something I will be building into my convalescence.

Looking for an honest answer to “Who am I”? and then living into how I can be that person. Not by doing, by being.

Wish me luck.

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This post was written a year and a half ago…and for some reason ended up in the drafts folder. Oops. It tells an important story…enjoy.

A couple of weeks ago a reporter from our local newspaper contact me about writing a profile piece on me.  I couldn’t imagine that anyone would be interested in me.  I was intrigued and agreed.  He came to an event that was taking place outside of the Church and afterwards we went into the worship space and chatted.  He asked wonderful questions, and we spent about 45 minutes together.

The following week the article was printed on the front page of the local paper.  Larger than life was a photo of me and a three page article.  Yikes!  The article itself was well written; it contained a few minor errors.  The headline was a sensational one, not in a good way.  It was definitely a “hook” and drew people in.

Here’s a link to the article… https://www.thefreepress.ca/life/gay-minister-challenges-preconceptions/

The reaction to the article has been overwhelmingly positive.  The headline – not so much.  I’ve had strangers stop me on the street to tell me that the loved the article and they think it, and they think that I am wonderful.  This is all very good.

Except the reporter got something wrong.  I was described as “openly gay” and while I am Queer, I don’t define myself as openly gay.  However, once the article was out there, I guess I am “out”.

Which is absolutely okay, and also extremely unnerving.

I sent a letter to the editor to correct a few things that the reporter got wrong, nothing really big, but still things that needed correcting.  The biggest one being my label.

And as much as I don’t like labels, sometimes they are necessary.  And when a label is assigned incorrectly, it should be corrected.

One of the words that has been used to describe me lately is “brave”, which I don’t really understand.  It was a risk talking with the reporter, and he went for the “hook” headline.  I don’t hide who I am, but I also don’t think it necessary to yell it from the rooftops.  I wonder if my sexuality wasn’t discussed if the article would have been as well received?

Why is it when one is outside the gender/sexuality “norm” that it’s used as an identifier?  If I was straight the headline would not have read “openly straight Minister defies norms”.  That would be an oxymoron, wouldn’t it?

Once the shock of the headline wore off, I began to embrace my “15 minutes of fame” to spread God’s message of love for all.  Since the article was written there was a municipal election, traffic accidents, political carnage south of the border, and the ballot for a provincial electoral referendum was released.  Thank God we are in a new news cycle so I can get back into the rhythm of the calendar; that of the community and of the Church.

I have worked a long time to figure out who I am.  I have had labels assigned to me that were incorrect and hurtful.  I have self-assigned labels that are correct and yet, also sometimes painful.  I no longer apologise for being who I am.  I wonder if there are some folks who look at me differently?

I am who God made.  Flawed, quirky, accident-prone, loving, and yes, Queer.  The one label or definition I stand by, regardless of what anyone calls me is “child of God”.  The most important label I have been assigned.  And the one I try my hardest to live into.

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It seems, these days, that you cannot listen to the radio, or look at a news app without hearing about the plastic crisis in our oceans, lakes and streams.  A viral video of a turtle with a plastic straw up its nose caused an outcry about the dangers of plastic waste, and especially single-use plastics.

It is near impossible to shop for groceries without plastic.  I know I can’t change the world single-handedly, but I can do my part to be a responsible steward of creation in my small corner of creation.

I have reusable mesh bags I use when I buy produce and I try to buy produce that is not already packaged.  I bought reusable glass straws that are super sturdy and a dream to clean.  I don’t use straws often but for when I need one, I have a great one to use.  I’m going to purchase a bamboo cutlery set for traveling so I don’t need to use plastic cutlery in restaurants…usually fast-food restaurants.

I have started using cotton handkerchiefs rather than tissues.  The transition will take a little time, but I’ll get there.

My most recent purchase is washable, reusable panty liners.  They are bright and colourful, snap over my underwear and are very comfortable.  No more bunched liners, no more adhesive struggles, and they wash beautifully.

I’ve switched to bamboo toothbrushes.  The handle is compostable once the nylon bristles are removed and they are easily removed with a pair of pliers.  They are shipped to my home every two months in recyclable paper packaging.  This company “Bam Brushes” is very conscientious of their product and the environment.  AND they are a Canadian company.   You can find them here…https://www.bambrushes.com/

I recently purchased a product that was overpackaged.  I emailed the company to express my concern.  I received a lovely email back that didn’t really say much other than “thank you for writing”.  It did close that this company is looking to make an improvement to the environment.  I’m thinking they should start with their plastic packaging.

I try, wherever possible, to buy locally, or in person.  Living in a small town means this is not always doable.  I resist the urge to order from Amazon for instant gratification…as well as excess packaging.  I’m buying books from the local bookseller or checking them out of the library whenever possible.  Small steps, yet even small steps add up.

I generate 3x as much recycling as I do garbage.  And while I’m pleased with the reduction in garbage, I’d also like to reduce recycling to metal, glass and paper.  There will likely be plastic in my recycling bin for awhile.  And with every purchase I make, I try to make smarter choices.  Taking into consideration environmental impact, cost, carbon footprint and convenience.  Sometimes the solutions are simple to find.  Other times they are more difficult.

I suspect, as with most things, it’s all about balance.

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