Friday, April 29, 2016

Uprooted and Rooted

Tonight I cram in an assignment for my Masters with a bunch of furniture bits around me. From the outside, it may look like disarray. Yet, I am at peace. We've scaled down a lot this time and I am only moving the simple basics across border - and it feels freeing. What is most important I bring? It's the sentimental bits really - pieces of the children's art, gifts from friends and family, bits that brings some form of comfort. Cameron, my 19 year old son, has returned home from Victoria to help us move to West Van tomorrow. His presence, unbeknownst to him, offers a depth of rootedness a midst my uprootedness. Family, whatever we define that as, whether friends, our church, our work, blood kin or deep friendships, is our root system. Returning to Vancouver is a homecoming, a profound returning to rootedness in more ways than I am able to articulate. So rootedness may also be found in a place where one has been shaped and nurtured to experience the world. After spending time with friends and family up in Canada these past two weeks, I felt I had arrived "home." It may be as simple as feeling known for who you are- a state of fully being at rest with oneself. Perhaps it means a place where I can be all that I can be, aligned and congruent - freedom of soul. Or as my son Cameron says when I ask him where "home" is replies confidently, "it's where the heart is." Two weeks ago, I went from small rural island town America to work with the disadvantaged in the poor inner heart of the city of Vancouver. I have assumed clinical practice leadership of two hospices with one of them in the heart of East Van skid row neighborhood where there are massive amounts of "single resident occupancies" call SROs. I didn't know this term before I started working there. Night to day overnight. And while on the outside, the neighborhood appears deeply cracked and dilapidated, there is such a truthfulness in brokenness. No masks. Less ego and more eccentricity. I appreciate this rawness and depth of humanity. It's honest. While the people are oppressed, there is an admirable resiliency in their story. They are life teachers. Resilience is evident not only in the patients but those who work in the area to continual rebuild and improve quality of life within skid row. While I may be uprooted now, nothing can can dismantle the rooted love I have within me. Resilient rooted love paves the way forward, thanks to my kind and loving family. We huddle together, like I see the huddles in parks in East Van. Rootedness. New season and a new day. I sing an uprooted and rooted prayer. I dance an uprooted and rooted Amen.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Back to the inner city I go!

I'm a big believer that animals choose us as their owners. Our fur-babies arrive in our lives for a reason. I also recognize more and more that our life work chooses us as well in some uncanny way. Yes, we can be intentional to think about choosing our path but somehow, somewhere, we will catch ourselves being chosen. My last blog post was over four years ago. I was detoxing from the city; my family and I had moved to one of the most beautiful seaside towns in Washington State, with three sides of the land surrounded by water and beautiful forest lands. And I have lived surrounded by serene and quiet beauty for the last five years - away from the constant frenetic and dense population of the city. And now, I return to Vancouver, B.C. - a place I call home. And this time, this work that I return to - quite mysteriously, it chose me this time. I'll be hanging out some of the time working in the downtown East Van neighborhood, a compact, heavily populated location filled with the most vulnerable and marginalized: the poor, the addicted, the most broken of hearts and minds. I will be a bridge for this population to receive access to palliative care and to ensure best practices. In other words, my goal will be for people to receive the best care for their end of life suffering while living their last months at a hospice/palliative care facility. My title is: Clinical Practice Leader, a role that allows flexibility while I finish a Masters in Nursing. I did not intentionally set out to work in this specific position or location. I did not fish to reel in a work that involves the most oppressed of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, a midst the height of their suffering. If I was really honest, skid row is a bit out of my comfort zone. It's a collective culture I have looked on from the outside, mostly drive by. But there is something about the homeless I recognize that invites a certain vulnerability like the homeless First Nations woman who came up to me the other day while I was putting money in the parking meter. She introduced herself, sharing her story, saying she is known on the streets for her love and hugs. Meanwhile I see her opening her arms wide, enthusiastically exclaiming:"Hug!" and finding myself with arms around me - and I find myself unexpectedly hugging back. Within hospice, the philosophy of care is based on the patient's terms, wherever they live. It is solely about the "other." It's never about us who work within the realms of healthcare and certainly not about exerting one's agenda - and I have always loved that about hospice. I ask myself in quiet moments: why am I returning to work with Hospice? Hospice patients, first of all, are my greatest, most noble of teachers and they teach me about living life well and how time with loved ones is number one because you cannot buy back time with those you love. Hospice patients keep me real and authentic in the area of relationships and reconciliation - inspiring me to live life to the fullest with people whom I deeply love. And though returning to hospice in the downtown East Van neighborhood, where many may assume: "Where the Wild Things Are" I do believe this will be where a treasure chest of life's gems reside. It's the people and mission - and the heart of this work - that I return to during this season of life. And if moments of doubt crowd in, I will remember Whose greater rules I live by: I walk by faith, not by sight - one day at a time.