Monday, November 30, 2009

The Moon and The Lake

Deep in the hills of southern Virginia, I stand on a small dock that rests on the still waters of a small lake adjacent to the campground where we are currently staying during this phase of our journey around the country.

The water of the lake is absolutely still, the air is chilly, and the full moon itself seems to move quickly through the sky above me, even though I know that it's the low-flying clouds that are actually moving, not the moon.

I picture the clouds as representations of the thoughts that constantly swirl through my head, and the stillness of the surface of the lake represents the nature of my mind, or how I am told my mind should be. Those clouds are simply brief interruptions of the clarity of the sky above them, and the sky remains as vast and deep and unperturbed as always, no matter how many clouds pass over its wide-eyed screen.

As the clouds pass overhead, they are very clearly reflected on the surface of the dark lake, as in the placid face of the large white moon. The reflections of the clouds are no more real than my many disturbing thoughts, but I seem unable to distinguish between the real and the unreal.

I know the reflections in the water are simply reflections, just as I should know that my thoughts are only thoughts and nothing more. Why do my thoughts so easily disturb my peace of mind? Why do the clouds that pass across the surface of my inner lake so quickly cause ripples and waves that easily throw me off course?

My undisciplined mind yearns for clarity, its surface so frequently disturbed from within and without. That lake, so calmly reflecting the moon and clouds above it, knows nothing of worry, of anxiety, of rumination. Would that my mind could learn the lesson taught by the stillness of that clear, cold lake and the vast sky above it.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Dear Readers,

On this day of Thanksgiving, I am sending my heartfelt wishes for a wonderful day, whether you are with friends, family, at work, at play, or on the road. This is indeed a day to reflect on our blessings, and I will certainly take the opportunity to reflect on the many things for which I am personally grateful.

We are currently in southern Maryland, making our way south on our round-the-country journey. I know that Digital Doorway has been somewhat quiet of late, and I hope to bring more life here as our journey continues on.

Thank you for stopping by, and many blessings on you and yours, now and always.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Recovering From the Shock Of Suicide

Losing a close friend to suicide is like having the fabric of one's life torn open without warning. It is a shocking loss, a bitter and horrific loss. What could be more disruptive to the normal trajectory of life?

Having lost a friend to homicide (by police) in 2001 and now a friend to suicide in 2009, there is a continuum of grief and mourning along which I continue to travel. Ironically, it is only quite recently that I feel I've made significant progress in accepting and coming to terms with my friend's 2001 murder, so perhaps I have been handed this newest challenge in order to further sharpen my skills of recovery.

Suicide, that most self-centered of acts, removes a person's physical presence in a sudden, unexpected and brutal way. This self-inflicted disappearance sends ripples---or perhaps shockwaves---throughout multiple communities and layers of relationships, and each individual impacted by the news must grapple with their own messy constellation of feelings, be it guilt, remorse, anger, disbelief, shock, or any number of normal reactions in reaction to an abnormal circumstance.

For myself, I question what I said or didn't say, what I did or didn't do, the invitations not offered, the times I gave up or pulled back. I used the word "brutal" in the previous paragraph for a reason, in order to more fully illustrate the painful significance of a suicide in relation to those left behind. It is indeed a brutal reality when the phone rings and the news that a close friend has taken his own life is communicated across the ethers. It is gut-wrenching and maddeningly brutal, a harsh slap in the face, an iron fist to the solar plexus. It is exhausting.

For those of us left in the wake of suicide, it is a process of recovery and acceptance, and we do what we can to make it through the days in the wake of unwelcome news that painfully and irrevocably changes our lives.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Dance of Sudden Loss and Grief

Today I am reeling from devastating news of the sudden and tragic death of a very dear friend. Death frequently seems to visit when least expected, and this lack of ability to prepare for loss is one of the factors that can make it so difficult to cope when death pays a call.

Eight years ago, another dear friend died unjustly at the hands of the police, followed by the death of my great-aunt, my beloved dog, and my step-father. Digesting this recent history, one of my personal themes for the majority of the last decade has been recovery from grief and traumatic loss.

Now with another friend suddenly gone, the list of losses suffered over this last decade has lengthened, and my personal resiliency vis-a-vis grief and loss is challenged once again. In one respect, I am at a loss for words, but on the other hand I have a deep need to reach out across the ethers and ask for support and prayers.

Death has visited our house, and we dance the dance of grief once again.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What Next?

Being on the road, not working and simply traveling, I wonder what will become of my identity as a nurse and a health care provider. While I still introduce myself as a nurse, I begin to wonder to myself just what that means exactly. Am I a nurse because I think like one? Is it the tattered license in my wallet? Or is it the fourteen years of experience that simply make it so? Is my "nurseness" still intact when on sabbatical, or does it take a back seat to my basic humanity?

These days of living on the road with my wife and dog as peripatetic travelers is beginning to challenge even my own self-perception of who I really am. An enormous part of my identity has been wrapped up in being a nurse for more than a decade now, and as we embrace the open road and all it has to offer, that very identity is shaken to the core. Still, it's a comfort to have both a vocation and a calling that serve both my sense of identity and my ability to be economically stable.

For now, we travel the highways and byways of the United States, and I will eventually christen my work as a health and wellness coach, taking my work as a nurse to a new level of novelty and service. Til then, my "nurseness" is simply a state of mind!

Friday, November 06, 2009

When Calamity Strikes

Well, experience demonstrates again and again that even when one is "off duty" as a nurse or medical professional, one's training can kick into gear at any moment.

Today, I was placidly sitting in my cousin's living room with my laptop. Knowing that there were several roofers crawling around above our heads, some modicum of loud sounds was not unexpected. However, when a series of crashes occurred in a space of several seconds, I looked up to witness a body falling rapidly through space towards the ground past the window opposite the couch where I was seated.

With my wife yelling for help and my cousin calling 911, we ran to the back yard to find a roofer who had fallen from the second floor level, bouncing off of the roof of the dining room and the deck before landing on the ground.

It was quite a scene, and it was indeed gratifying to be able to quickly assess his injuries and level of consciousness, cajole him not to move a muscle, and determine that he could safely wait for the ambulance to arrive.

Luckily, he sustained no major injuries and was treated and released from the emergency room within several hours. Every time I respond to an event of this kind (like car accidents), I realize that I should really undergo a refresher course in First Aid and emergency medical response. However, my nursing assessment skills did indeed come in handy, and I was happy to be of service, however limited my abilities.

Photo by Mary Rives

Sunday, November 01, 2009

The Peripatetic Nurse is on the Road

Dear Readers,

My wife and I are now on the road, making our way down the East Coast towards the warmer weather. Our travel blog, Mary's and Keith's Excellent Adventure, is becoming increasingly robust with photos, videos and tales from the road.

Our new lifestyle poses many exciting challenges and novel experiences, one of which is health care. While we still have health insurance from my old job until November 30th, the next step will be securing (at least) minimal catastrophic coverage from that date forward, and then making sure we take very good care of ourselves while we travel. Good nutrition, exercise, high quality supplements and a plethora of fresh air are undoubtedly part of our personal health prescription.

I will be reporting on our health challenges and successes along the way, and hope to talk to other full-time RV'ers to see how they handle health on the road (although many full-timers are retired and relatively secure with Medicare coverage).

Stay tuned, and please visit our travel blog for further updates!