Shut-up Santa Claus!

I love Christmas. I really, really do. The lights, the tree, giving gifts, the food…all of it. There is nothing I don’t like about Christmas. 

Except Santa Claus. 

I don’t like him. I never did. I find him creepy.

Most children love Santa. I was not most children. I hated him. He scared the bejesus out of me. When there would be Santa in a mall to take pictures I’d run in the opposite direction.

When I was very young my brother was Santa in a school play. Right in the middle of his monologue, I decided I had had enough of my beloved brother’s interpretation of this aborrhent imposter and I screamed at the top of my lungs from the front row in the audience that completely filled the school auditorium:

‘SHUT-UP, SANTA CLAUS!!!!!’

I completely threw my brother off and he started to laugh. Peels of boyhood laughter in his microphone.

Then the audience finally came out of their stunned silence and started to laugh too.

I would think my mum was totally mortified, but knowing her I think she was just grateful that I didn’t run on stage and punch him.

And I say ‘I think’ because to be entirely honest, I absolutely don’t remember this episode. My brother and mum remember vividly ofcourse, but I do not.

The thing is, when I was a kid growing up in Canada, my Maltese mother was persistently terrified of child snatchers. My mum’s lectures on stranger danger were terrifying. She was so afraid of this happening that she would never leave me out of sight. When she was about to have my little sister she even took me into the obstetrician’s examination room because she was afraid to leave me in the small waiting area of this clinic. I remember the OB/GYN explaining the ultrasound to me and showing me how it works.

So obviously the idea of sitting on this creepy old man’s lap was an absolute no-no in my books. And he was giving out candy-canes and everyone knows the ultimate kids’ rule is to never accept candy from a stranger.

I do not even remember believing in Santa. If I ever did, I was really, really young. I have a brother 6 years my senior, so probably the cat was out of the bag by the time I was three. Also my feminist mother would never let her kids believe that gifts just appeared by a mystical man at Christmas time under a tree. She always told us that we need to work for everything we want and not to depend on anyone. We had presents because mummy and daddy love us and worked very hard to get us those gifts, so we had better be appreciative.

And I have always been a big fan of the truth, so I’m glad I knew the truth. It did not take anything away from Christmas. Actually, quite the contrary…knowing that my parents spent their hard-earned pay cheques on something frivolous my little heart desired made me realize how lucky I was to have such parents and how special I was to them. It also made us less materialistic, knowing that presents don’t just fall from the sky.

I also want to take this opportunity to highlight the fact that not everyone is lucky in this regard and if you want to make a difference and make a Maltese child’s Christmas better, have a look at this site:

http://www.childrendreams.org

So Santa. No, I’m not a fan. What’s with the red outfit? Is he a communist? And why doesn’t he shave, for God’s sake? Does he fancy himself as the first hipster? Are those Christmas carols on his iPod or Mumford and Sons? And what about the ‘ho ho ho!’? Who laughs like that? I bet he wants a couple of ‘hos, the dirty old man.

  
I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus…

Eugh.

I hope he did not give you beard burn. Where’s Frosty when you need him?

   
  

It’s all going to be ok.

A while back I was in a really, really bad place. I was seriously unhappy in my job, I had health issues, I could not sleep well, my personal life was upside down and it was just awful.

My mind set was so negative that I honestly believed it was impossible for anything to change. I thought, this is what my life has become. A meaningless blob of nothing.

Then one day, something just clicked. I realized that my life will have meaning if I engage in life. As in, feel everything I must feel, do everything I must do and to be who I want myself to be.

And to breathe. Just breathe.

And once I took this decision, things seemed to change. I got the job I wanted. My health improved. My personal life is better. And I sleep a whole lot better too.

And all of this got me thinking. ‘Things’ did not just change. I changed. As I always say, do you know what is good about bad times? They pass. And you learn. My god, do you learn.

You can meet the man/woman of your dreams.

You can reach that target at work.

You can get that promotion.

You can have that child you desperately want.

You can reach your ideal weight.

You can have that better relationship with your parents.

Or you might not. And guess what? That’s ok too. It may seem like the end of the world when we do not get what we want, but really it’s not. It’s not the end of the world. You learn, you grow, you adapt.

You are given this one life. By all means, strive for things. Have goals and wants and wishes and dreams. And when you get them, celebrate! And when they go pear-shaped, celebrate that too. Because failure is also part of the human experience and if we never fail or if what we want comes easy to us all the time, we become ungrateful, insufferable bastards. And there are enough of those on this earth, I can assure you.

I once met one of those people who rarely have anything go wrong for them- he was well connected and his daddy bought him his way out of everything. He was the dullest person I ever met and so entitled. He believed the world owed him something, which is really quite terrible.

I choose my flawed existence and trials and tribulations any day.

When life gives you lemons, it’s not about making lemonade. Make a lemon cake. With frosting. And put a candle on it and blow it out and say ‘happy birthday’ even if it’s not your birthday because with every experience we are reborn in a way, with a renaissance of mental weaponary in our arsenal.


Life leaves a scar. And nothing is forever which may seem sad, but it’s not. It’s a good thing.

This is how it works

You’re young until you’re not

You love until you don’t

You try until you can’t

You laugh until you cry

You cry until you laugh

And everyone must breathe

Until their dying breath

No, this is how it works

You peer inside yourself

You take the things you like

And try to love the things you took

And then you take that love you made

And stick it into some

Someone else’s heart

Pumping someone else’s blood

And walking arm in arm

You hope it don’t get harmed

But even if it does

You’ll just do it all again

Rudeness.

People are rude. So, so rude. I wonder how this has happened. Were people always rude or is this something new and modern? Or is it that my tolerance levels have just plummeted with me getting older?
I am not naive. I realise that people don’t necessarily treat you like you treat them. I will be honest, I have a pretty hard time accepting this because deep down I am still under the illusion that people are all well meaning when I know with proof that they are not. But for some reason I still get so surprised when I meet a rude person.
I am a nurse. I am used to people being rude to me. They shout at me, threaten me, call me names and sometimes even make sexual jokes. But I cannot truthfully say its water off a duck’s back. It simply jars less with the passage of time. But it is still irritating and makes me ask ‘Why? Why all the aggro? How is this necessary? Or beneficial?’
I am going to highlight ways in which people are rude to others everyday because I am sure we all come across these behaviours every day and they have become so mundane that we do not even realise how disrespectful they truly are. Oh, and for the record, being rude is not only about actively doing something deplorable, but also the absence of politeness.

Shut-up:

Seriously. If you cannot say something nice, just shut up. Say nothing. You are under no obligation to comment about everything. Your opinion is actually not that important, especially if it is going to hurt someone without helping them. Express your opinion by all means, but if you are at a dinner party and do not like the food, just shut up. Leave it there or eat it anyway, but someone would have gone through a lot of trouble and effort to make you something so just lump it. I am sure they would not have made the food bad on purpose. If you really must comment or if asked, try to offer ideas on how the meal could have been improved rather than just shooting it down and acknowledge the effort made. Or if you meet someone who has suddenly gained a lot of weight or has had an unfortunate haircut, just shut-up. Chances are, they have a mirror at home and they know and they feel like shit. It is incredibly impolite. If they bring it up just say ‘don’t worry, hair grows/you went through a hard time things will get better’ etc…words of encouragement. I have acne, even though I am 32. Sometimes it is painful and often ugly and unsightly. But coming up to me and telling me ‘you have a pimple on your face’ is just plain rude. And a little stupid. I mean, I can feel it every time I talk or yawn or eat or do anything that stretches out the skin on my face. I know I have a pimple on my face. It’s a mix of cystic acne and acne rosacea. I’ve known since I was 12.

Restraint, people.

Personal Space:

When talking to people, unless you know them really well, there is no need to touch them. Seriously. I knew a guy who used to poke me on the shoulder every time he made a point. He also would be right up close to my face. I knew he had a cavity in his left molar. I also knew he drank hot chocolate with orange for breakfast. Too damn close. And poking. It would be all I could do not to rip off his arm and beat him with it.

Inaction:

I see an old lady in the road with a bag of shopping. All of a sudden, the bottom of the bag disintegrates and the groceries go everywhere. For God’s sake, help the old lady pick them up! Ask a nearby shop for a new bag! Do something other than just dodge the old lady and her purchases. When I stopped to help, the old lady was so flabbergasted that someone actually helped her that she gave me a suspicious look.

One time at hospital my arms were full of equipment and I could not negotiate the door. I tried to open with my elbow in a waiting room brimming with people. Someone finally approached me and instead of helping, asked if I could check his blood pressure. When I said yes, he then held the door for me.
Nothing is for nothing in this world.

Tone:

Why bark at someone when you can speak to that person nicely? Especially on the phone. I hate it when people are rude to me on the phone because it is so cowardly. You cannot see my face or my surroundings and therefore you do not care or take it into account which you believe is the perfect excuse to be incredibly rude or violent with your words.

Generally, I react by being extremely kind and sweet. Eventually the other person will calm down and sometimes even feel some remorse.
 I guess one can say that rudeness generally boils down to selfishness. When one completely disregards what another person feels what generally results is rudeness. It is also a lack of education. I do not mean academia. Education comes in many forms and one of the most important lessons to be learned is how to deal with others and how it may not be the best course of action to constantly put yourself first.

In other words:
Don’t be an arse-face.
It’s a choice.

  

The Office.

So I have been in my new position at work for about 3 months and I must say it really was a most welcome change and in these three months I have learnt many new and interesting things, both clinically and about human nature and ultimately myself.
I now spend almost equal amounts of time in wards and also in an office.
Office life is completely new to me. I have never worked in an office before and I must say, it is quite a new kettle of fish, especially when you share it with five others. So far, the five of us have not been together at the same time due to us all having different shifts and thank God for that as our office is well…cozy. Let us call it cozy. The contrast between office of five people and a rowdy ward of almost a hundred people is also a bit of a shock.
That being said, I am also never alone except for a few minutes in the morning and in the evening as I am always the first to arrive and the last to leave.
So here are a few things I have learn about office life:
1) Lower the register- where I used to work previously, I used to have to use my stage voice in order for people to hear me, even if they were only a metre away. Before speaking, I would be sure to fill my lungs with oxygen to really get full power of my diaphragm and then bellow out instructions, advice and even small talk.

Now, that is completely unnecessary, I do not need to compete to be heard. The five people in this closed room can hear me perfectly well, even if I whisper. I no longer go home with a massive headache that my own voice would have given me.

 

2) Lunch time- The office is small with a microwave in the corner. I am very conscious of what I now bring to work for lunch, because I don’t think my colleagues would appreciate an afternoon in an office that smelt of lampuki or curry. Sandwiches and salads are generally the best bet by far.

 

3) Bathroom breaks- I am very careful as not to irritate my colleagues by constantly getting up to go to the bathroom. It may seem very silly, but somebody who can’t sit still for a minute can get very tiresome to be around.

 

4) Ergonomics- the desk/unit I occupy is totally personalised to my needs. The computer screen is adjusted to just the right height, my filing cabinet has my documents, I keep my essentials in the drawer without the worry of it getting pinched, the telephone line I use the most is right by my side, I spread my papers out the way that makes sense to me…it may not sound like much, but when you are used to sharing everything with a staff of around a hundred, a few personal touches at work make you feel a bit more human.

 

5) No buffer- Everybody in my office knows everything I am doing at any given time. It is not because they are nosey but because there is no way of not knowing. In the ward where I used to be stationed, it was very easy to get lost in the crowd due to the amount of personnel and the sheer size of the place. If you have a little toilet trouble and need to make frequent long trips to the bathroom, your absence will definitely be felt in a small office. In the ward, they would probably call your name a couple of times or send a text and eventually find out or not even notice if they are not too busy.

 So maybe it’s because I am still new to it, I must say I like office life but I am glad to still be up and about and visiting wards and seeing patients. I think I have struck just the right balance and I must say I am really very happy.

https://youtu.be/b44rAzY3IGU

To my beloved friends

Due to the fact that I was a victim of teenage girl bullying from the ages of 12 until 15, I was of the belief that I could not possibly be worth anything to other people. I was convinced that I was extremely lucky to have the few friends I had and that it would only be a matter of time before they grew tired of me.

Terrible, yes? That anyone should think this way of themselves. When I look back, I can’t believe I thought so little of myself. And it affected me. For a while. Through university and sixth form for sure. It is the law of attraction, which I have been reading a lot about of late. The more I thought of myself as worthless, I became a person of little worth. Even though I am smart, I did not do particularly well at school, I was in rather unsuitable relationships and I used to binge drink on weekends.

Ok, to be honest these all sound like typical youthful things to do. But the problem was that I was not your typical youth. And I should have been better than all that.

Today, I am glad to say I am very aware of my self-worth. I consider myself a happy and successful person, doing the things I love and doing them really quite well. And now I feel like I am privileged to have friends, but they are also privileged to have me. And along the years I have met many, many good people and have made many, many good friends. And that is probably because now I consider myself a good person, worthy of love and friendship and good things.

I truly believe that people come into our lives for a reason, season or a life-time. And I believe because I opened myself up to others, I have been changed for the better. Many of my encounters have been an education.

And to the people who stuck by me through thick and thin, and there are many, I want to thank you. I like the person I have become and that is definitely because of you. Those who saw through the bullshit and helped me focus on what was good. Those who turned my negatives into positives and those who never stopped loving me even when I was unloveable. 

I also thank those who were not there for me, who showed me anything but love. You gave me character at the end of the day and an undying compassion for others. Probably if it weren’t for you, I would have never had this passion for helping those who are sick or in an unfortunate position; to be able to help people who feel like their world is crumbling around them and like they have lost all control- and I could do this because I was once there.

Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better? But because I knew you, I have been changed for good.

For Good- from the musical ‘Wicked’

I’m limited

Just look at me

I’m limited

And just look at you you can do all I couldn’t do

Glinda

So now it’s up to you

For both of us

Now it’s up to you

I’ve heard it said

That people come into our lives for a reason

Bringing something we must learn

And we are led

To those who help us most to grow

If we let them

And we help them in return

Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true

But I know I’m who I am today

Because I knew you…

Like a comet pulled from orbit

As it passes a sun

Like a stream that meets a boulder

Halfway through the wood

Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?

But because I knew you

I have been changed for good

It well may be

That we will never meet again

In this lifetime

So let me say before we part

So much of me

Is made of what I learned from you

You’ll be with me

Like a handprint on my heart

And now whatever way our stories end

I know you have re-written mine

By being my friend…

Like a ship blown from its mooring

By a wind off the sea

Like a seed dropped by a skybird

In a distant wood

Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?

But because I knew you

Because I knew you

I have been changed for good

And just to clear the air

I ask forgiveness

For the things I’ve done, you blame me for

But then, I guess we know

There’s blame to share

And none of it seems to matter anymore

Like a comet pulled from orbit

As it passes the sun

Like a stream that meets a boulder

Halfway through the wood

Like a ship blown from its mooring

By a wind off the sea

Like a seed dropped by a skybird

In the wood (Harmony over Glinda)

Who can say if I’ve been

Changed for the better?

I do believe I have been

Changed for the better

And because I knew you…

Because I knew you…

Because I knew you…

I have been changed for good…

 

How can you tell me you’re lonely?

When I was young, my parents used to constantly listen to cassettes and CDs of Roger Whittaker. He is basically this old guy with quite an interesting singing voice. They used to play his cassettes on a loop in the car while going on long drives to Winnipeg for the weekend, and like all things done repeatedly when you are young, they never really seem to leave you and I had learned every one of those songs off by heart. I think this was around 1989/1990.

Fast forward to 26 years later when now I have my own car but since I live in Malta the longest drive one could possibly go on is probably about 40 minutes, I was giving a lift to my mum and she brought in this old Roger Whittaker CD. I remembered every single verse to every single song on that CD. But at 32, the songs have more meaning than they ever did when I was 6.

One particular song is called ‘The streets of London’ and basically describes different scenarios, not-so-great scenarios involving homelessness and love lost and growing old and then goes on to ask how can you say you are lonely when there is all this suffering around you and next to these people you’re having a laugh.

When I am down and suffering, I must say, it annoys the hell out of me when people tell me ‘it could be worse.’ Even though it is true, things could always be worse, it is not very helpful. For example, if a guy has an ingrown toenail which hurts tremendously and as a nurse I say, ‘well, hey, look at that guy! We amputated his foot!, it won’t all of a sudden take away the physical pain of his ingrown toenail nor will it alleviate the stress of having to get it removed. Of course, we all feel very sorry for amputated-foot-man, and nobody wishes to be him, but it really does nothing for ingrown-toe-nail-guy. I mean, should the sheer gratitude of not needing one’s foot cut off be enough to forget one’s current suffering?

My point is, everyone experiences different circumstances differently. And what might not seem like a big deal to you could be a very big deal to someone else. And that has to be respected.

In the health profession, when studying analgesia we are constantly told that pain is what the patient says it is. Yes, we are discussing physical pain in this scenario but I think it can apply to emotional pain too. There is that awful joke that goes ‘Hey doc, my foot hurts!’ and the doctor hits the patient on the head with a hammer and the patient goes ‘Why did you do that?’ and the doc goes ‘well, it sure made you forget your foot!’ Well, I believe that emotional pain is a little like that…how we experience it really depends on how we have experienced life thus far. If something truly tremendously awful happens to you it will kind of blur other past bad experiences and bad experiences to come. And I cannot give an example because it is up to the individual to describe what is really and truly awful to them.

It is also why this song is quite beautiful. Yes, there is the annoying part in the chorus which tries to ask you to compare the suffering in your life to the suffering of the people found on the streets of London, but there is also the story telling aspect which depicts the different kinds of people and their hardships. He describes a dirty, mentally-challenged homeless woman carrying all she has in two plastic bags. He describes a lonely old man who spends his mornings in a cafe taking hours to drink tea and then wandering home alone and an old navy officer who still wears his badges even though nobody really cares anymore.

And yes, telling people in the face of their suffering that ‘ah, well, it could be worse’ is not the most emotionally intelligent thing to do; at least it is quite truthful.

It is not always the easiest thing, but I try really hard to concentrate on the things I do have rather than on those that I do not. And in the meantime, I simply try to be the best version of myself that I can be.

 The streets of London

Have you seen the old man

In the closed-down market

Kicking up the paper,

With his worn out shoes?

In his eyes you see no pride

Hand held loosely at his side

Yesterday’s paper telling yesterday’s news
So how can you tell me you’re lonely,

And say for you that the sun don’t shine.

Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London

I’ll show you something to make you change your mind
Have you seen the old girl

Who walks the streets of London

Dirt in her hair and her clothes in rags?

She’s no time for talking,

She just keeps right on walking

Carrying her home in two carrier bags.
So how can you tell me you’re lonely,

And say for you that the sun don’t shine.

Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London

I’ll show you something to make you change your mind
In the all night cafe

At a quarter past eleven,

Same old man sitting there on his own

Looking at the world

Over the rim of his tea-cup,

Each tea lasts an hour

Then he wanders home alone
So how can you tell me you’re lonely,

Don’t say for you that the sun don’t shine.

Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London

I’ll show you something to make you change your mind
Have you seen the old man

Outside the Seaman’s Mission

Memory fading with the medal ribbons that he wears

In our winter city,

The rain cries a little pity

For one more forgotten hero

And a world that doesn’t care
So how can you tell me you’re lonely,

And say for you that the sun don’t shine.

Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London

I’ll show you something to make you change your mind.


 

In a heartbeat…

Where you work and what you do forms a huge part of your life. The average person’s life is divided into three parts: work, home, sleep. Work is a pretty huge piece of the pie.
At work we meet different people who influence us in different ways, and we influence them. We make friendships and unfortunately enemies, people will love you or hate you or not even notice you. And how you tackle any of these scenarios shows strength of character or lack thereof.

Then there is the nature of the work. Maybe you work with people, with computers, with numbers, with your hands, with tools. Maybe you have a nice boss, a terrible boss, an incompetent boss or maybe you are your own boss. Maybe you work in a place that is mismanaged, or you are part of an institution that lacks funds or the opposite, you work in a place that runs like a well-oiled machine.

Where am I going with this?

The fact of the matter is, your job shapes you and moulds you.

At least that is my personal experience. When I signed up for nursing at the tender age of eighteen, I was thrown onto a ward almost immediately. Each ward is run differently, mostly according to the nursing officer who is stationed there. Some run the place smoothly and calmly. Some run the place like a regiment. In some wards the nurses practice incredible team work and in some wards they just totally hate each other. Some wards have patients who require little intervention and some wards have patients who need constant supervision, like in intensive care or the NICU. I am not saying that some wards have less work to do than others. I am saying that the nature of the work is different and heavily depends on the style of leadership of the nursing officer or charge nurse.  

That being said however, in wards with a very high turnover of patients needing constant intervention within a very short time, stress reigns. Pressure pushes its way in from every angle of the hospital. Nurses call in sick due to burn out, putting further pressure on the ones that are there. Then of course one must factor in the character of the nurses. Not all nurses are hard-working and not all nurses are caring. There is always one in every shift, the person who always disappears or always has an excuse up his or her sleeve. And this person will cause more pressure to be placed on the ones that are hard-working as they have to make up for the slack. Then the person in charge starts to rely heavily on these good workers and the rotten apples stay there, stinking up the bag because touching rotten apples is unpleasant.

And then one of two things happens:

1. The once caring and hard-working nurse stops caring because she/he sees those around them not caring and seem to be benefitting from their lack of work ethic. A kind of, if you can’t beat them join them kind of thing.

OR

2. They get massively burnt out and depressed, stressed and grow old before their time and start suffering from physical and mental manifestations of stress like weight loss or weight gain, hair loss, asthma, peptic ulcers, infertility and many others.

 

Also, nurses in a big unit, especially nurses in charge end up doing many duties that don’t always coincide with nursing but become their responsibility due to the pecking order. Like, a care assistant legally cannot organise and sign for a patient’s medication, but a nurse can do a care assistant’s work. A clerk cannot remove a patient’s sutures but the nurse can update the computer database and order a file and answer the phone. And if the nurse starts refusing to do all these things, a fast-paced unit simply will not run smoothly.  

And that is why all the good people leave these kinds of areas. They would rather take a dive into the unknown than continue to feel undervalued and undermined and worst of all, abused.

Unfortunately, I began to feel like option two. So when I saw an opportunity, I took it. I applied for a post that had just opened, but never in a million years did I think I would get it. In fact, I did not even tell anybody that I had applied. At the time I had run into a phenomenal bit of bad luck so my mind frame was that nothing good could possibly ever happen to me.

Then a few days later, I received a call and was informed that the position was mine if I was still interested and I accepted. On my next day of work, I was called to have my duties explained to me and I was asked to start right away.

And that was that. In a heartbeat, everything suddenly changed. I said my goodbyes to some of the lovely people I worked with and I packed my things and walked into my new office.

And all of a sudden, I got a new lease on life. In the few days I have been here, I realised that my work life does not have to be so much of a burden. It is not unheard of to wake up and be happy to go to work. And this all dawned on me when I noticed how conditioned I am by stress: that feeling of worry if you are not doing something all the time. I am so used to accommodating my place of work that I did not ever entertain the notion that sometimes my place of work should accommodate me. For example, my new team gave me some reading material about the nature of the new project I am about to embark on and I was about to put it in my bag to take home, when I was told no, home is home and I should read up about the project during working hours.  

I am aware that it is early days and maybe a few months down the line I will be thinking ‘dear God, what have I done??’ but I have a feeling that I will not. I have endured a lot, professionally and personally.

Maybe…just maybe…and I say this with trepidation…the sun has chosen to shine on me a little bit?