Plateaus, New Goals, & My First Failure of 2018

2017 was a challenging year for me in many ways, some good, some not so much, but it ended positively.

In October, I had opportunity to show ten new paintings where I work, part of an exhibition titled Healers, Artists, and Breast Cancer Survivors. A local TV news station covered it. Around the same time, I was interviewed for a local magazine, also about being an artist, oncology nurse navigator, and breast cancer survivor. I admit, I felt very good about both, because 2017 was a difficult time for pursuing my goals as an artist.

Part of the hospital exhibit was an artist talk. I spoke about how my arts career was launched when I completed cancer treatment, and was told I had a 32% chance of dying in 10 years from disease recurrence. Blah, blah, blah, I decided if I were to die in 10 years there were three things I wanted to do:

  • Become an artist
  • Fall deeply in love with, and be deeply loved by the same person
  • Give people reasons to say nice things about me when I die.

As I spoke these words to the audience, I realized I have achieved the first two of the three, and it’s too soon to know the outcome of the third. I need new life goals.

I spent the past weekend reflecting on what these new life goals should be. I did some deep soul work, and came up with new intentions. They include questions I’m hoping to have the answers to this time next year. I’m not going to write them here. They’re personal.

I started 2018 with a bang. I spent time with some of my closest family, which  was a goal for 2018 (there’s a difference between yearly goals and life intentions). Afterwards, I went to my barre class, and the instructor talked about breaking plateaus. That resonated for me. I’ve reached a plateau in my life goals. 2018 will be the year to break through.

I came home from that class ready to write a post for this blog about how to know if you’re stuck in your life goals, and methods to get unstuck. I was on fire.

The too long knitted sleeve photo by Jparadisirn 2018

I forgot to mention, I began knitting a sweater last week. I’m a pretty good knitter, but the pattern I chose, though it builds on skills I’ve gained by making smaller projects, is the most complex pattern I’ve worked with. It’s knit from the bottom up, beginning with the sleeves, which are joined to the body of the sweater before making the yoke. I’ve been working on the first sleeve for several days. It’s over a foot long.

That’s when I noticed it’s too long to accommodate the rest of the rows needed to make the remaining necessary stitch increases. I re-read the pattern. I had misunderstood the increase rows sequence. Now I have to rip out all of the knitting I’ve done, and start over. Arrgh!

I felt defeated, the wind let out of my sails. It’s the first day of 2018, and already I’ve made a mistake!

Then it came to me: That’s how plateaus are broken. You try something new, and you’re not good at it yet, so you make a mistake, maybe more than one. You have to start over, and keep trying until you get it right. That’s how you get unstuck. That’s how progress is made.

I haven’t ripped out the stitches yet. I decided to write this post first. I feel better because I did. I feel motivated to rip out all those hours of knitting, and start over.

2018 is going to be a transformative year.

 

A Meditation on 15 Minutes

The problem with committing to writing or drawing something for 15 minutes every day isn’t finding the time to do it. The problem is convincing yourself that 15 minutes is worth the effort in the first place, which is funny if you think about it. I mean, if you were starting an exercise program for the first time, 15 minutes would feel like an impossible amount of time to run in place or around a track. 15 minutes of laps in a pool would be a goal of achievement to an out of shape swimmer. Hell, meditating quietly for 15 minutes is hard to do for the initiate. But for an artist or writer, 15 minutes of creating something feels barely worth the effort. For most artists and writers, (notice I did not say bloggers, a genre of creatives who often boast about how fast they can whip together a post) it takes 15 minutes of staring into space or working out a puzzle just to limber our minds enough to type a thoughtful sentence or paint a meaningful stroke on canvas. Once it’s in place, we are known to again stare into space, read, or work a puzzle for another length of time before inspiration strikes and the next sentence or gestural stroke is generated. 15 minutes? Why bother?

ink drawing by Julianna Paradisis 2015

ink drawing by Julianna Paradisis 2015

Here’s what I’ve discovered in a few days about committing to writing or drawing for 15 minutes everyday: during my waking hours, whether home or at work, I now find I am thinking about what I plan to create when I get home and set the kitchen timer for 15 minutes. This post in fact, began vaguely in my head sometime after lunch today while I was at work. By the time I came home and ate dinner, I couldn’t wait to get to my computer and start writing. How did this happen?

Actually, I already know the answer. It’s because what you focus on expands (Wayne Dyer). It’s very New-Agey to talk about intention, and mindfulness, but intention and mindfulness are euphemisms for “Pay attention!” as in when you were a little kid and your mom or dad yanked you by the arm out of the way of something or someone, and hissed, “Pay attention!” Or maybe you weren’t spanked as a kid, and instead your teacher dropped a book on your desk in front of you because you were daydreaming and not following along with the rest of your class, and then said loudly, “Pay attention!” until someone complained about that teacher, and now when someone doesn’t pay attention someone else makes a new rule and everybody has expend for the kid who wasn’t paying attention whether or not they were.

Self-discipline, the foundation of personal progress, is like that. If you pay attention, you can accomplish almost anything, and that’s why no one should think 15 minutes everyday isn’t enough time to change a behavior. It is. Give it a try.

 

Challenging Myself in 2016

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like hard work.

Thomas Edison

Wishes do come true, whether you believe or not. The caveat is that the answer doesn’t always align with the expectations of the wisher. This is why about half of the human population believes in wishes, prayers, or manifestation, and the other 50% does not.

This is also how someone like me finds herself in a fortunate predicament: my wishes were granted. I’ve obtained the proverbial three vocations I love. One makes money (as an oncology nurse navigator), another keeps me in shape (running and barre classes), and the third allows me to be creative (painting, drawing, writing, and blogging). Often the first and third converge as demonstrated in this local new feature.

The oncology nurse navigator role that I love so much is newish for me, and as such, takes hours a week of research and continuing education beyond the actual job. It is also a 40-hour workweek kind of job. Prior, I worked nearly, but not quite full time. That little bit of edge apparently makes a difference in my creative out put. I have not abandoned painting; for instance these portraits I made as a Christmas present for a family member.

 More often, however, I get off work, make myself go for a run or to the exercise studio, and then, once home, gravitate like a moth to flame to the biggest time-waster for all creatives: the Internet. Weekends are consumed with household tasks. I realize most Americans live by this routine, and if I were suffering from creative block perhaps I could live with it too, but the truth is I have as much inspiration for writing and making art as ever. What I’ve lacked is the discipline to prioritize my time. Starting with baby steps, one of my goals for 2016 is to write or draw for 15 minutes every day. It can be a chapter of The Adventures of Nurse Niki, a post for this blog, a journal entry or a quick sketch of my sofa, but everyday I will make something. I’ve already started. I set a kitchen timer to keep me honest. Most days I end up going for more than 15 minutes.

Happy 2016!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Year Resolution: Don’t Wait Until Late in the Afternoon

It was late in the afternoon when my patient arrived at the oncology clinic. The treatment

Kaboom (ceramic) by jparadisi

Kaboom (ceramic) by jparadisi

prescribed required more hours than we were open. The oncologist prioritized his treatment for that afternoon and scheduled a second appointment for the next morning to complete it. The only problem with this plan was my patient didn’t realize he needed two appointments until I told him. His eyes expressed disappointment, but it was an expletive that escaped his mouth. He immediately apologized. “I’m sorry; it’s just that I don’t have that kind of time anymore.”

I understood exactly what he meant.

It was on a New Year’s Eve when I discovered a lump in my breast. At that time, I was a pediatric intensive care nurse working 12-hour shifts and a single mother. Life as I knew it came to a grinding halt. Once chemotherapy started, my oncologist prescribed light duty.  No longer a bedside nurse, I worked on office projects for the PICU manager instead.

My oncologist was hopeful. Still, I remember hearing her say there was a 32 percent chance I would die in 10 years. I was afraid. However, as a PICU nurse, I knew life could be short. This knowledge helped me gain perspective on my predicament. I’d had a good life. If this were it, how would I spend the next 10 years?

Since childhood, I wanted to be an artist. At 15, I announced my plan at the dinner table. In his thick Italian accent, my father said, “Sweetheart, you are talented and can be whatever you want, but get a job first. You will gain life experience, and then you will have something to make art about.”

Eventually, I became a nurse.

I thought about this while my chemo-bald head perched like a cue ball on the armrest of the sofa, eyes staring at the ceiling. I still wanted to be an artist. If this was the last decade of my life, I would spend it making art. I needed to start right away, because I may not have that kind of time anymore.

After recovery, I enrolled in art school and then transitioned into adult oncology nursing. In 2009, I completed a certification in fine arts and became certified in oncology nursing.

Today I am an artist and an oncology nurse. Cultivating creativity not only adds joy and accomplishment to my personal life, but it also flows into patient care. I believe it sustains my love for nursing after 26 years of practice.

Are you setting aside your creativity until late in the afternoon of your life?

Are you waiting for retirement or for the kids to leave home?

What if you discovered you don’t have that kind of time anymore?

What would you change?

 

You Can Change the World 2K11

artist unknown. photo: jparadisi 2K11

Someone placed a sticker on our unit’s grease board. It reads, “You can change the world if you want to.”

Really? I think about how hard it is simply to keep peace among nurses during the course of a shift.

Throughout history, people have tried changing the world. Some accomplished extraordinary transformations through the persistent presentation of their ideas. Many suffered disastrous personal consequences for their efforts.”All we are saying, is give peace a chance” angers the hell out of some people. The list of eloquent, intelligent people who paid with their lives to enlighten the world is daunting, but peace is not promoted through silence.

A while ago, I noticed a patient reading Ken Kesey. The author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Kesey was raised in Eugene, Oregon.  He created the fictional character Nurse Ratched. The irony isn’t lost on me.

The poet John Donne wrote “I am a little world made cunningly of elements.” I wonder if the sticker on our unit’s grease board means by changing ourselves and our interactions with others, we become part of a world-changing collective; a sort of code team for the world? That feels a little more manageable. It beats waiting for the other guy to change, huh?

New Year’s Resolution: Too Big to Fail

Portland Sunrise with the tip of Mt. Hood photo: JParadisi 2009

     I’m contemplating what “Too big to fail” would look like for a NewYear’s Resolution in 2010. 

     Wishing everyone a healthy, prosperous and happy New Year. 

JP