Television commercials with their golden couples walking on pristine beaches, movies with never-ending romances, sit-coms where conflict ends in minutes, all feed into a desire for unattainable perfection. Life is not a script, but we forget the people on the big and little screen follow the fantasies other people create.
In real life, the phone rings during a romantic encounter, the beach is dirty, and conflict can last for years. Often, when we look for perfection, we look for something constant, never-ending. Perfect moments are not permanent. Being less permanent does not make them less valid.
Life goes on in spite of our other plans. Children bang through doors, friends call, work pulls us away. We look for that Norman Rockwell Christmas on the Christmas cards, or that perfect vacation you see on posters. What we get is the sunburn, a car that breaks down, burned or under-done turkey, and family fights. Suddenly, when the Christmas, or vacation or life fails to live up to expectations, we see it as a failure. But they’re not.
When looking for the ideal, I’ve learned to search for the moment. The look on the faces of my children in the light from Christmas candles, that fire-lit sunset over the lake, the touch of my husband’s hand when he helped me out of a chair, whether I needed help or not, are the perfect moments. When I can help relieve a patient’s pain and see the relief on their face when help comes, that is a perfect moment.
Most families have petty squabbles. Some are downright dysfunctional. Many times, in our nursing families, we have squabbles where nurses will fight with each other, shifts will develop rivalry, and managers will begin to view things from behind walls they erect around their "territory." We end up not only spoiling the moments for which we were searching, but we find ourselves trying to provide care in difficult, tense and emotional situations.
Not long ago, my husband and I visited our daughter in Texas. On the spur of the moment we went to the small lake where we used to take our children camping every summer. We arrived at sunset.
Lanterns sparkled in dark trees, an outside campfire sent sparks flying up to join the sky glow, birds called, fish slapped the water, and laughter echoed. A pelican flapped his way home in slow motion, beak full of dinner.
This moment couldn’t last. The sun set; the pelican flapped out of sight; we strolled our way home. But I can re-visit that moment in time by remembering, by reading it in my journal or re-living the lake smell.
But what’s wrong when you have no memorable moments. Maybe you are still looking for perfection instead of that moment of clarity. Or, maybe there are things at work you can do to help yourself find more moments that are good. Understanding each other’s boundaries, not only what is said in writing but also where do jobs begin and end? Does a shift end at 3pm or when every task is done? Make certain everyone is on the same wavelength.
Control, or perceived loss of control due to change, can cause conflict. And medicine is changing, every day. Change is something we must accept and discover the opportunity hiding in that change.
Communication with co-workers and supervisors can be essential. Resentment will build if communication happens in a contradictory, malicious way. Working together and having the desire and skill to communicate well can allow you to do your absolute best job on-the-job and give you a chance to find those special moments that make life worthwhile.
Although we can’t spend our entire lives living in the past, those memories let us fly. Thinking happy thoughts will let us return to Never-Never-Land. Those one-and-only times will let us go back to enjoy a memoable sunset.
My plan is to worry less about creating the perfect happening and enjoy those one-and-only times. I don’t want to spend my life being disappointed by my failure to create the lasting perfection that is experienced only in fiction. I want to cut down on the distractions and friction that make it difficult to recognize the shining moments when they flit by, whether at work or at home.
We can all enjoy those unexpected, unplanned, shining moments that last for the rest of life in our memories.