Strength.

Strength is acknowledging that you have been knocked down and feeling the pain of that fall but not let it be the thing that defines you.

Strength is when you cry and cry and cry, wondering if the tears will ever stop and then they do.

Strength is recognising what you have to do to make yourself feel better.

Strength is looking an unpleasant situation in the eye and just getting on with it.

Strength is when something truly awful has happened to you, but you still have the ability to show others love and compassion.

Strength is being able to laugh again.

Strength is picking up the pieces, even of the puzzle doesn’t make sense.

Strength is learning from a situation.

Strength is when something bad happens to you and you use that experience to better yourself.

Strength is getting bad news, spend the night drinking and indulging and make a mental note that it’s only for a night.

Strength is being able to help others.

Strength is remembering the many great things about life. 

But most of all:

Strength is looking at yourself in the mirror and knowing that you will not let anything defeat you. And then blow yourself a kiss. 

  

Don’t pity me.

I have stopped expecting people to be emotionally intelligent. Those who are, are few and far between and if I keep expecting this I will simply become more and more disappointed with those around me.

Part of being emotionally intelligent is knowing or figuring out how to deal with the emotions involved when meeting somebody who is living through an unfortunate situation. As a nurse, I deal with this every single day, so I have had plenty of practice. The main ‘trick’ if you want to call it that is this: don’t cry or give looks of pity…those are things that YOU are feeling. In order to be of any help or use to the afflicted person, you need to tune in to what THEY want. Your pity won’t help. 

In Maltese there is the word ‘Miskina/miskin’. I think it translates directly to ‘poor thing’. I hate that word. It is the most unhelpful and condescending word in existence. When people say it, they are showing outwardly that they acknowledge the other person’s suffering but show no desire to actually do anything about it. 

I also think that ‘miskina/miskin’ is a bit of a power trip. When people say it, they often cock their heads to the side and get a sad look in their eyes and say ‘oh, miskina!’ and then go along their day safe in the knowledge that they are not poor things because they do not have the same terrible problems of others. To me, when you pity someone, you are basically saying in a more polite way and in a cloak of pseudo-caring : oh my God, I’m so glad I’m not you.

Which ofcourse, just makes the afflicted person feel worse. People are not stupid. They realise and take note. And then they avoid you.

So here’s what you can do:

1) avoid the words ‘poor thing’. Substitute with ‘I’m sorry you are going through such a hard time.’ Or say something like ‘you know what’s great about bad times? They pass eventually.’ Or ‘you are a strong person. It’s hard, but you can handle this.’

2) offer to help if you can. But if you honestly can’t, don’t make empty offers. Don’t say things like ‘I’m here for you’ if you actually are not. And if you can’t really help, be honest and say so. Say ‘I have a bit too much going on in my life right now, but if things ease up for me, I’m all yours.’

3) be empathic. Remember, you are not immune. Another person’s problem could one day be yours. Something I have learnt while working in a hospital is that in an instant, the tables could turn. You could very well become the person you have called ‘miskina.’ Be mindful of this. And think, would I really want people to pity me?

Pity is a knee-jerk reaction. When we hear bad news about someone, it is only natural to feel sorry for them. But being mindful and emotionally intelligent is about taking those knee-jerk reactions and turning them into something productive. 

As always, my motto is that before you say anything, ask yourself, is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?

Miskin/Miskina are none of those things.

  

Free.

This summer I am making a conscious effort to enjoy every single day. Whether I am at work or not, I make sure to enjoy every single minute and to fill my mind with positive thoughts.

At the beginning of the year, I made a resolution to put myself first and I am actually managing. It is a step way out of my comfort zone but I have taken it and I am all the better for it.

And the strange part is, even though this is foreign territory, I feel great. I think all of this has made me a better person and a better leader, because I am able to step back and get a better perspective.

It is always hard to find parking at the beach I like to go to, so today I parked kind of far away. It was super hot and I had to walk a couple of blocks in the sun. When I arrived, without a moments hesitation I just jumped in. The cold sea water felt electric against my skin, the crash of the waves like music and I felt amazing.

Amazingly happy. And lucky. And blessed. And free.

  
Are things perfect in my life? Far from it. Do I have everything my little heart desires? Not really. Are there difficulties in my path? Yes, many.

But still. In spite of all the hurdles, my spirit is strong. And I have always been very brave.

So when those waves of ugliness come, and sometimes they will come, instead of turning my back and running away, I have the strength to face them head on. And perhaps even muster the courage to ride them.

  

Night.

This morning I was saddened to find out that Elie Wiesel had died two days ago. He was a holocaust survivor who wrote about his experience at Auschwitz in a trilogy of books known as the ‘Night’ trilogy.

This man was truly brave. He did all he had to do with the little he had to survive and to help his aging father survive. His books are honest and without flair; poignant and interesting.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-people-wiesel-idUSKCN0ZI0XH

Bravery does not mean doing death defying stunts for the sake of it. Courage is not about walking through a wall of fire to show everyone that you can.

Bravery is doing something unpleasant, painful and perhaps even undignified in order to survive. It is about admitting when you are wrong and apologizing. It’s about telling the whole truth and being ready to face the consequences. It is about knowing that you are in a shitty situation but you see what can be done to manage it. Bravery is about staring your problem in the eye and knowing that this, too, shall pass.

I think bravery is best described in Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘If’.

  
Perhaps change that last line to make it more gender fluid, but you catch my drift.

I remember one very demanding shift at work where the patients were really demanding and they were coming non-stop and the doctors were being unco-operative. Finally, my junior nurse and I were able to take a break. When our half hour was up, we looked at each other because we were dreading leaving the staff room. But then my junior looked me in the eye and said ‘come on! Let’s not be cowards!’ And we faced the remainder of our day head on. 

And you know what? 7pm came and our day and hardship was over.

I find cowardice such a despicable quality. I associate cowardice with a lack of character, with people who do not live, but just exist. Life is all about challenges and hard times…but also full of triumph and good times. And at these times we can reflect and be grateful that we mustered up the strength and courage to move on.

RIP, Elie Wiesel…one of the bravest men who ever was.

  

Sad song playlist

There are many reasons why you can feel sad. You could lose a lover, fall out with a close friend, miss a family member, realise a dream may never come true for you but watch as others take it for granted, be bullied, suffer a bad turn of events or just have a case of life sucking royally at that moment.

I am someone who tries to shove sadness out of the way and continue to function. I have done this for years. However, now I am starting to realise that maybe it is ok to feel sad and perhaps it’s better to just feel whatever you feel and get it out of your system and then proceed to function normally.

It does not mean you have to scream and cry. It could mean just sitting quietly for a while with your thoughts, or writing a song or a poem or painting a picture…anything to just acknowledge it. If you want to scream and cry I suppose that’s ok too, but probably not at work or any other public place.

So here’s my top ten of sad songs:

10. Father and Son- Cat Stevens (1970)

I can only just imagine the heartache of a parent watching their kids make the same mistakes they made and they have the wisdom to try prevent the bad stuff from happening to them but the kids just won’t have it. And the sadness on the son’s behalf of having a parent who can’t seem to understand that he needs to find his own way and make mistakes and learn.


9. Ordinary World- Duran Duran (1992)

Well, it’s the classic tale of love lost. But this song can apply to any kind of loss really. That no matter what, we live in this ordinary world and somehow we have to survive. Crying for yesterday will not really change tomorrow. I love how the lyric ‘I will learn to survive’ is so prominent…it implies that it does not really and truly come naturally to anyone. Sometimes it’s bad experiences which teach us just how to survive.

8. Panic Cord- Gabrielle Aplin (2013)

This one is about one-sided love. Now, what is quite interesting about this one is how all the loving is coming from the guy. She says ‘this meant more to you than it did to me’ and ‘you were happy, I was bored.’ The song is sad because it is dripping with regret and I think we’ve all been there, wondering if we had handled a situation better, maybe the end result would have been more favorable.

7. Flesh without Blood- Grimes (2015)

The title says it all. It’s about someone behaving like an asshole. No more explaining. A first class asshole. Whether it’s a lover, family member or some guy stuck in traffic, assholes are upsetting in any scenario.

6. It takes a Fool to Remain Sane- The Ark (2000)

Basically about how very often life is a bit shit. But that’s ok. Because at the end of the day, it’s up to us to find our own happiness and we can only do that by being true to ourselves, which in this day and age could be a tall order. It takes a fool to remain sane, but sometimes being a fool is not such a bad thing.

5. Shake it Out- Florence and the Machine (2011)

Isn’t it strange how sometimes very sad things can also be very beautiful? Due to its reproduction on Glee in an episode dealing with domestic violence, it is now associated with that issue, kind of like Luca by Suzanne Vega. But whereas Vega’s song is very obviously about that issue, I believe the FATM’s song can be about any bad time really. And at the end of the day, all we can do is shake it out, chalk it up to experience and hope for a better day. It’s always darkest before the dawn.

4. Here’s where the Story Ends- The Sundays (1990)

When I was younger I was really badly bullied, mostly emotionally, twice physically. I used to get through it by saying to myself ‘the good thing about bad times is that they pass.’ Unfortunately, it can sometimes also be said about good times too. And we pretend not to be sorry about it, but a small part of our heart always is a little bit. Sometimes you just have to accept where the story ends. A new story is always on the horizon.

3. It must have been Love- Roxette (1992)

Yes, it’s cheesy. But there is something so genuine about this song. It is not artistic, there is no deep hidden meaning. It is so in your face that the sadness commands your attention. It has dramatic synthesizers. It is all about the ‘not knowing what you’ve got til it’s gone’ as she did not realise it was love until it was over. And now it’s too late.

2. Is it Wicked not to Care?- Belle and Sebastian (1998)

Sometimes we are so caught up in frivolties that we get our judgement clouded. We try to keep up appearances and sometimes forget the beauty of that that is staring us right in the face. In another life, if there was a sequel, would you love me like an equal? Or is there someone else instead?


1. Anyone who Knows what Love is- Irma Thomas

One of the saddest songs I have ever heard. Just because someone does not love you, it does not mean that you can just turn off your feelings for them. And everyone you know will tell you to get rid of him or her, but your heart still longs for that person. And unrequited love is the saddest love of all. And ofcourse, anyone who knows what love is will understand.

Good night everyone.

Why women make great leaders

Before I get slammed by my male counterparts, I am in no way saying that men do not make great leaders. The two issues are not mutually exclusive.

However, women and men do things very differently. They have different qualities and different ways of thinking. And with the attributes women possess, the leadership role can be done spectacularly well. 

Men, especially those from a matriarchal household where the mother’s only job was to bring up children and keep house, will have a more boisterous style of leadership. They will be loud and vocal and are rather good at delegating. It is probably because they have been prepared and encouraged all their lives to be king of the castle, whether they have the skill or not. But because they are male, it is expected of them to hold positions of power to become the main bread-winner. And many of these men can be very good leaders. However, in my experience these kind of men are bosses, not leaders. But at the end of the day, they get the job done and probably get the job done well.

Women, on the other hand from when they are girls are trained to be work horses. We are given dolls and stuffed animals to take care of, we are told to take care of our younger siblings and we are given a whole lot of responsibility from the moment we are able. Some of us do it well, some of us do not. Be we do it anyway. And since we are thrown in at the deep-end from when we are young, we often have no choice but to swim and do our best to keep our heads above the water. 

It is because I believe that women have a natural ability to prioritise. I believe a huge part of being a democratic leader is knowing and guaging what is important, especially in the field of nursing. 

Some points as to why I believe women make fantastic leaders:

1) It was never expected of us. When I got promoted to deputy nursing officer, many people were surprised due to my kind nature and how I never was really vocal about wishing to climb up the ladder. To be honest, I was a little surprised myself.

2) We see everything. Due to empathy and emotional intelligence, we know how not to take things at face value. If someone is not performing well, we do not just slam them, we see why. Men can do this as well. But after a while most men get fed up of the situation and take on an ‘enough is enough’ attitude whereas women will probably have more patience to wait out someone else’s bad time.

3) We are intuitive. This is something I personally am very self aware of. I do not know if this is the nurse in me or the woman in me: I can often smell out a problem before it happens and make sure it does not happen. 

4) Ego is not an issue. Women can be very bitchy with each other and catty. But we know how to squash those feelings and work together and get a job done. I have seen male bosses butting heads and one-upping each other. It is not good for the workplace. Women between themselves can have problems but not like that. 

I remember watching The Little Mermaid when it first came out, I think it was around 1989 and I was about five. I remember being horrified how Ariel gave up her voice, her most powerful organ, with only just a little hesitation and thought. I actually turned to my mum and said ‘I would not have done that.’ And my mum who is an extremely educated woman said ‘Yes, I think I taught you better.’

I remember when I told my grandmother that I had a steady boyfriend. I was in my final year of nursing.

Grandma: so you like this boyfriend?

Me: yes, I do.

Grandma: will you get engaged?

Me: it’s looking that way…

Grandma: and then you’ll get married?

Me: if all goes well, I suppose so…

Grandma: and then you’ll quit your job.

HELL NO! 

The funny thing is, unlike her other bits of conversation, that was not a question. It was an assumption. 

I think however that the idea of a female leader is becoming more of a norm nowadays and less of a shocker. Due to the supposed roles we are born to fill, a woman with a high powered job was not considered as something that could feasibly happen. But I am happy to say that now things are different. Even in pop culture, the series Suits…the head of the law firm is a strong black woman who is not a bitch. In season one, Harvey who is an obvious alpha-male is her subordinate. The character of Donna is also of a strong woman and the queen of the multi-task. This goes to show that women are no longer playing secondary roles in their own lives. 

We are the stars.

   
 

It’s always darkest before the dawn

I am always terrified of things spiraling out of control. I have been this way from a very young age. I realized very early on in life how people will never behave how you wish them to and that they are often unpredictable and often do stupid and asinine things. And I would make it my mission to prevent other people’s asinine ways from placing obstacles in my path. 
My earliest memory of this was in primary school. It was Valentine’s Day, and in Canada everyone gives each other a little card. The teacher had us make these cute little heart-shaped pouches with our names on them and she hung them on the wall so we can all put each other’s cards in them.

However, one little fucker with a pack of gum was chewing up bits of gum and putting them in everyone’s pouch. I saw him do this. I tried to tell an adult, but she did not listen and told me that nobody likes a tattle-tale. I told the boy to stop it and he said ‘make me!’ and he pushed me to the floor. So I took matters in my own hands. I took my pouch off the wall and put it in my pigeon hole at the back of the class. I then wrote on all my Valentine’s Day cards ‘P.S: if anyone wanted to give me a card, my pouch is in my pigeon hole’ and subsequently tore up my card for Mr. Chewing gum. 

I was later put in the corner facing the wall for ‘hiding’ my pouch. 

Mr. Chewing gum got off Scot free, because nobody knew it was him who sabotaged the whole exercise with his disgusting gum. Except me. But nobody likes a tattle-tale.

I was six. And I was already aware of how other people’s thoughtlessness can affect me.
I felt so misunderstood. And so frustrated. And so disappointed at how unfair the situation was. And so humiliated. 

And all my six year-old self knew how to do to deal with this situation was cry. The teacher thought I was crying because I was being punished. Yes, I was in the corner. But the real punishment was how I learnt at that moment how good people don’t always get good things, despite what we learnt in doctrine lessons. 

And I did not tell anyone because if one adult who was very important to me couldn’t understand, what are the chances that anyone else would?
And I have spent the rest of my life trying to control every iota so I would never feel that way again. 
And now I am thirty-two and exhausted. Because no matter how hard you try, you simply can not be on top of every situation. At work I kill myself trying to prevent even the slightest mistake from happening, but with a staff of over 100, it is impossible to make them behave in the way I see fit. 
People have characters and stories and layers and at the end of the day, it is what makes society beautiful. However, it can also be the reason why sometimes it is very ugly.
But people will always be people. And we all have to find a way to get along and work together.
It is a difficult thing. To let the universe unfold as it will. It takes a lot of trust. Trust in the world and trust in oneself to be able to deal with adversity without falling apart.
It also takes courage to be able to face the possibility of falling apart for a while. Sometimes, you can’t build yourself up unless you completely break down first. And you may then build something better and stronger and perhaps surprise yourself.
Its always darkest before the dawn. Sometimes you have to go to that dark place. 

But then comes the sun.

Have you ever seen a sunrise?

I promise, it’s spectacular.

  

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