Corissa:

Have you ever thought about just switching things up a bit with your life? You’ve embarked on this career – maybe as a teen or in your early 20s, or maybe later in life – found that this career served the purpose for the time, but you became increasingly curious as to what may be, what COULD be, on the OTHER SIDE of it.

As a young girl, I wanted to be a nurse … and my passion for things health-related continued on as I married Wayne, my childhood sweetheart (at the ripe old age of 17!), raised three incredible children, and lived life as a wife and mommy. I ventured into a few job-related arenas, mostly though just to help with family finances, never really with passion … or COMpassion.

And throughout those years, I did spend much time volunteering – at the kids’ schools, at their extra-curricular sporting activities, and mostly at my church. Stirrings of passionate COMpassion rippled through my core while working with women and children, and these stirrings led me to seek out various volunteer and work-related roles.

After Wayne was diagnosed with cancer, I found myself feeling blunted, stunted, locked … not knowing how best to care for him. And I admit, my love for him intertwined with my feelings of inadequacies, which propelled me to pursue the profession of nursing. And I excelled. While in university, that is. Always within the top 5 of my class. Often asked to mentor other students. And even pursued to work (as in for pay!) in research with highly esteemed nursing professionals.

I learned the nursing “skills” easily and quickly, applying the appropriate Standards of Practice – and even questioning the rationale behind some of them, for my own clarification … and maybe just to push the boundaries a bit.

Once in the field, though, instead of flourishing, I floundered. I had this fancy degree, knew all the skills, and was eager to put them into practice in the “real world” … yet something was missing. Passionate compassion.

As a nurse, my most profound experiences where with those who showed gratitude – maybe not so much with words, but with actions … one was a lady who was slowly dying of ALS. Look it up. It’s a devastating way to die. Oh, she was mean to me at first. Even asking (demanding!) the other staff to not have me as her nurse. But then I learned that she was mean to EVERYONE.

I stuck by her, showed her that I not only wanted to care for her therapeutically, but I was concerned about her as a human being … emotionally and mentally – two very real human aspects that often get overlooked in the busy, task-oriented medical profession.

The thing is that as a nurse, she wasn’t my only patient; I had about 20 others under my care. She needed more than the “administer meds and treatment, then leave” nurse. I was a newly graduated nurse, with little time to spare as it took me longer to complete my tasks than a more senior nurse.

But I purposely started spending a few minutes with her, sitting on her bedside, just talking. As she shared more about her life, I shared a bit of mine, too … how I actually became a nurse (primarily for Wayne, who was living with dying with cancer).

She saw that I valued her as a human being … and as a woman who was also living with dying. Passionate compassion.

I worked with her for 5 months before I moved onto a different nursing role. But at about the 3-month mark, she actually began to ask for me. Yes, it took that long. Then she only wanted ME to care for her. And so I did, as much as I could, along with my other responsibilities, of course. My last day with her, she actually cried – wept in my arms, not wanting me to leave – to leave HER. But she was brave, and actually gave me valuable words of wisdom that I used in caring for Wayne at the end of his earthly life … words that she must have also imparted to her own son, as I was told she died peacefully, with her son at her bedside, a couple of weeks after I left.

When I moved onto a different role – a role that was “too big” for me, I admit – I worked one-on-one with a doctor (the only doctor to service the area). She was tough, and held herself highly above me, a “lowly nurse.” She questioned some of my nursing actions and strategies – to which I always had a rebuttal of solid rationale. No matter what I tried, she pushed against my attempts to be equal counterparts, yet with differing roles.

One day, about 4 months after working with her, she surprised me. Cornering me in the health centre’s kitchen /slash/ child assessment room, I was expecting yet another rebuke of some sort and put on my brave face. However, she told me that she had not heard one complaint against me from any of the clients or staff – NOT ONE. In fact, she had been told over and over that I “cared” … that I seemed to truly care about the community and its members. She was impressed, to say the least. I remember saying that I had still so very much to learn about nursing, but I came to work every day with the intent to CARE. And it showed: I was making a difference in the lives in that community. Passionate compassion.

Then I left nursing for a bit, professionally anyway. And cared exclusively for Wayne. This was a selfLESS role. He didn’t say it often, in words, “thank you.” But we had an understanding. I knew, KNEW, how much he needed me, and how much he appreciated me. He didn’t have to say it in words. His actions clearly said what he wanted, needed, to say. And I didn’t need anyone else’s appreciation or validation for what I did – not my children’s, not his family’s. We understood each other so well, and loved each other so deeply, that all my wells of passionate compassion were filled up and poured into him. Yes, at times those wells became quite depleted. It was then that I leaned more heavily on my Creator God and my support systems to carry me to other sources of renewal and re-nourishment, so that I, in turn, could continue to pour it back into and upon Wayne.

After Wayne died, I moved my/our possessions (and one child!) to the major metropolis of Winnipeg, bought a house big enough for me and my children to all live in relative harmony.

And I went back to the nursing profession.

But I’d neglected to do for myself what I had to selflessly done for others – extend compassion. How could I provide passionate compassion if now it was MY turn to receive it? Wasn’t I usually the giver? I had written about self-care, I had advised other professionals about “how to do it” … yet I never really given myself the same care as I gave others.

And within a few short weeks, I was done. With nursing. And with life as I knew it.

So started the self-indulgent (at least according to my cultural and religious background) work of passionate self-compassion.

My own healing journey went from being stagnant, stuck, hopeless, to intriguing, anticipating, hopeful.

Nursing, for me, was about the passion in providing compassion. Hard work, often yes. But when I was passionate about it, I was eager and ready.

Yet along the way, nursing, again: for me, became about politics and about systematically institutionalizing that compassion … so much so that my passion for the nursing profession drained. My passionate compassion for PEOPLE did not!

I went back to the nursing profession after I met Jesse, mainly to provide an income … but also to see if things were or could be different.

I found this quote, which seemed to sum up how I aspired to be as a nurse.

nurse quote

Sadly, the nursing world I was immersed in did not allow this type of nurse to succeed. I found nursing to still be about the charting, the meds, the boundaries … not about dignity, respect, compassion. Yet when I practiced these very things, I could see the benefits in my patients and clients. Those in authority above me would question and chastise me for being kind and compassionate, for showing human-to-human love.

On my last day of actual nursing work, which happened to be the day before I moved our belongings from Kingston, ON to Winnipeg, MB, I gave a whole car load of household items and non-perishable food to a family who had lost their home in a fire a few days before – they lost everything, and had no insurance for replacement. I got “the looks” and distanced attitude from the other staff, and my supervisor spoke with me about it, how I breached therapeutic boundaries. But to be honest, I didn’t care! Here was a family who had lost EVERYTHING! As a fellow human being, how could I NOT help?! What is wrong with this scenario? What if that would have been me, a young, unemployed mom with three babies, struggling to overcome issues with substance use? Something has to change before I would even consider going back into the nursing profession.

And just a note about the family: the mom was a client of mine. She was also one who gave me a hard time when I first started working with her, being a bully, calling me names, swearing at me when I didn’t bend to her demands, even getting physically aggressive at times. After a few months of me providing continued loving kindness, compassion, and respect, she, too, became soft and able to receive my “offerings” … and broke down when I presented her with the carload of stuff, and said “I wish you wouldn’t leave.” Passionate compassion.

One thing I’m finding is that my passion seems to ebb and flow with the life situation I’m currently in … right now, I’m becoming very passionate in advocating for and educating women about mastectomy and breast reconstruction choices and options.

And I’ve become quite interested in women’s sexuality, particularly in relation to individual holistic health and well-being. (Yes, I know, I know: this is very much taboo in my religious culture and background; scandalous to even say the word “sex” in public, and here I am, writing it for all the world to see. Sexuality is just as much a part of us as our mental, physical, emotional, and yes, even our spiritual health – yet so often overlooked.)

My heart is also passionate about human trafficking and human rights, again: about educating and advocating.

As a nurse, as a volunteer, and as a woman who became a mom, I loved working with young moms and their new babes. There is something so primal, so innate, about the beginnings of life – pregnancy, labour, and delivery, then breastfeeding – of the bond between mother and child (yes, the father, too), and how this shapes whom the child is and will be as he or she grows.

And you should all know by now (if you’ve read the older posts) that I am especially passionate about travel, about learning about new cultures and customs, languages, and about making friends around the world. Travelling also allows me to discover more about my other passions listed above – women’s health, women’s sexuality, human rights, human trafficking, and childbearing/childrearing.

Now: to turn my passions into a career (besides nursing, to which I’ve become so jaded) … something that actually pays the bills. Yes, it’d be so nice not to have to work for the all-mighty-dollar, but we all have to eat, wear clothes, have a roof over our heads, and pay for our usage on this earth.

What does this all have to do with the other side of one’s career? Well, I’m trying to figure out what, where, who I want to be … still … on the other side of a seemingly passion-full that turned passion-less career. And sure, it’d be nice if someone would come along and say “TA-DAAA! You’re great at _____! Here is everything you need to fulfill those passions. Now go do it!” But since that’s not happening, I’m relying on my own intuition and intention to process it all. Often it’s more about the journey, the process, than the actual finding. And so with every step of the journey, I’m realizing so much, not only about myself, but about all you lovelies who have chosen to include me as you walk your own journeys. Thanks for taking steps with me, with us, in this one (un)expected life! I’m excited about what’s next 🙂

By the way: I’m pretty passionate about this guy and our relationship 😉

J&C at wedding hug

Share your thoughts! What are you passionate about, and what are you doing to fulfill those passions? Have you ever made a change that resulted in a complete switch of careers, or a drastic change to your way of living? I’d love to hear about it. Click on the “send us a message” link above, PM us on FaceBook, or email cdlevair @ hotmail.com .
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Next post: All about our new start in the Ottawa Valley in Ontario, Canada!