First, thanks to everyone who commented yesterday. It was wonderful encouragement.
If there is anything I dislike more than office meetings, it's "interactive activities." I once refused to review a show because the publicity said it involved the audience moving through several different stages, all of which would include interaction with the performers. I do not interact happily. Entirely too intimidated.
So I was not happy when the annual Sutter Davis Auxiliary meeting, which had already gone through the boring stuff, standing rules revisions, new officers, scholarship report, new members introductions, volunteer survey results. CEO update and hospital performance took a brief break and it was announced that after the break there would be a presentation on "Mindful Training" and that would include a "little group interaction." I couldn't figure out a logical reason for me to slip out unnoticed.
So far things had gone all right. I had gotten to the hospital before the 9 a.m. start time, surprised that I didn't see more volunteers. The last time I did that, I had been a month early. But I knew this was the right day. I went to the meeting room and there were two guys playing with the projector. Don who is one of the big wigs, told me I was early. I looked at the clock and said I was only 10 minutes early...only the meeting was scheduled for 9:30. But they were serving a continental breakfast and I had not had any breakfast because I'd left the house so early, so I got a pastry, some fruit and coffee and settled in to read the book I always have with me. I never really mind being in situations where I have to wait because I always consider it bonus time that I can use to read my current book.
Eventually people started arriving and I noticed with pleasure that I recognized more people than I recognized last year, but still as people started sitting, they were still sting in groups all around me, with the chair next to me remained empty. I was wryly thinking to myself that it's always like that. I always stick out like a sore thumb, until the woman in front of me turned around and started talking to me. She said she knew me through one of the nurse practitioners at Women's Health, for which I worked for 12 years. Turns out she is new and is one of the people in the dog therapy program, so we had something to talk about. Then a woman named Barbara sat in the empty seat next to me and was very friendly. So I was feeling OK as the boring part of the meeting droned on.
And then came the presentation on Mindful Training. I was actually enjoying it, and surprised (and disappointed) when the half hour was over,
In the introductory remarks, I learned a shocking thing, that there are some 400,000 deaths each year caused by hospital error. In fact it is the third biggest cause of death, after heart problems and cancer. This situation was identified 17 years ago and there has been no significant change in all that time. Makes you a little nervous about going into a hospital and understand why patients are discharged so quickly. Things from giving the wrong medication to operating room errors, or somehow facilitating the spread of hospital borne infections like MRSA.
The facilitator explained that one of the steps they are taking to reduce the numbers if "Mindful Training," which begins with learning how to listen. She said that most of us listen while we are already composing how we are going to respond to what our partner is saying (just think of presidential debates!) and so we often don't really hear what the other person is saying. I thought about some of my most frustrating meetings with doctors who came into the exam room having already made a diagnosis of my problem without ever talking to me, and being unswayed by anything I said.
As she continued to talk about how to learn to listen "mindfully," and as we broke into groups of 3 (which was actually fun) wile one of us was the story teller, one was the listener and one was the observer to describe what she thought about our brief conversation while Paul talked to me about which super power he'd like to have as a superhero. I thought we were having a fairly mindful conversation until Barbara pointed out things that we did and did not do.
As the activity progressed, I was taken back to Oakland in the 1970s, in the early days of our parenthood. I was at m wits end because I could not keep a calm house and it seemed that everyone was always at each other's neck. Jeri would have been about 6 at the time and the others down from that.
A nearby church advertised that it would be holding a class on Parent Effectiveness Training (PET). I suggested to Walt that we take the class, but he wasn't interested, so I signed up and went off to the weekly meetings, while he stayed at home with the kids and waved "Have fun!" It wasn't exactly fun, but I did go and learned tools I could use to help deal with my warring children. I learned how to listen mindfully and started practicing it on the kids.
"Active Listening" worked like we were following a script. Ned would say ABC and I would answer DEF and he'd answer GHI and it was just perfect. I was thrilled. The thing actually worked!
But then I tried it with Paul. I'd say ABC and he'd answer 56£Π@. I'd try DEF and he'd respond ⅛Π$. It never did work on Paul, but the training was not useless because I did learn how to interact with the kids a bit better and even today, I call on my Active Listening when I think of it, though, in all honesty, I am still more likely to listen while trying to form a response in my mind.
When the meeting was over, I ran some errands (including a trip to Michael's craft store where I actually spent less than $50. When was the last time THAT happened??) and then I went to Atria.
It was 2 p.m. when I got there and my mother was not in her apartment. I sat down to go through her mail and figure out which bills needed to be paid. I had a question to ask her Long Term Care insurer but when I called I got into voice mail hell where I was moved from one message to another, each offering me a great value, like cheap movie tickets and things like that. I finally hung up and called again, and realized I must have dialed wrong the first time. But I never did reach a real person before my mother came back, pushing her walker.
She had not been in the dining room, so I don't know where she was but she came in saying "I just had to get away. Everybody is having problems today and I just couldn't listen any more!": which tells me she had actually been talking to other people. I think that now that she is using the walker, her pain is much less and she is learning that she can actually get out and move around. And it only took three years to convince her.
We sat and talked and from time to time she would look over at the walker and ask what it was, and if it belonged to me. I just answered her simply and didn't elaborate and the nice thing is that she seems to have forgotten how much she hated the idea of using a walker.
For the third visit in a row, we had a delightful visit. Again we talked a lot of nonsense, but you know, you go with Active Listening and just follow her lead and give her the answer that satisfies her, things go very well.
She didn't remember that Ed had visited her earlier this week or that Jeri had called her twice, but Jeri said that they had conversations like they used to have. I am so encouraged.
She didn't once complain of pain, even getting out of the chair to walk me to the door when I left. That was the best part of the day!