The Book of Me: Notes on Hospitals and Horribleness

I love instruction manuals and user’s guides.  If a spatula came with an instruction manual, I would probably read it before attempting to use it.  I guess that is not really a surprise, since a spatula is kitchen-related and therefore alien to me. 

A better example:  In an attempt to trigger some creativity, I recently purchased some oil pastel crayon-thingies.  After analyzing every set of oil pastels that Hobby Lobby carries and asking a clerk to recommend a good starter set….  You would have thought I was buying a house, or maybe a vacuum cleaner, not amateur art supplies.  After completing my purchase, I rushed home so I could read the directions and, only after reading the directions carefully, I tentatively started to do something which can only be described as “coloring.”

Epiphany:  Oh. My. God.  I, Kim Tempel, am as anal and perfectionistic as they come.  Almost Virgo anal.

That noise you hear is all my Virgo friends shaking their heads and muttering, in horror, “She is nothing like Us, has she even heard of Consumer Reports?”

Relax.  I said almost Virgo anal.

The other noise you hear is lots of other people who know me, and/or had the pleasure of working with me saying “Duh” or, in the alternative, “She is the least perfectionist person I’ve ever met, is she on drugs?” — depending on what portion of my life they were exposed to.

But I digress, the point is that I love instruction manuals.

So, I’m wondering, why don’t I have one for the one thing that I am most familiar with (when I pay attention), i.e., ME?  I do keep journals (ok, sporadically) but I rarely go back through them to glean useful information.  And I don’t want to start doing that because I know that would change how and what I write, which would defeat the whole purpose of journalling.

But it would be nice to have a record of some ME information available for reference.  Havi Brooks, The Fluent Self, uses a “Book of Me” approach wherein you actually write stuff down, instead of thinking (as I do) the following: “This experience/lesson/event is so important/meaningful/awful in every way that I will never ever do it again/forget it.”  Until the next time, when I forget it/do it again.

Havi suggests putting in both the practical things, which for her are things like, “I feel better when I don’t eat sugar.” — kind of  “care and feeding” stuff — as well as bigger, emotional-type things “Dinner parties always sound fun.  They never are.  Don’t go.” 

I’m going to start one.  I think it will be useful to have more than a vague feeling of “hmmmm, this sounds good, but I have this feeling that it might be a mistake…” to guide myself.  When I’m feeling confused/pressured/unsure, I can look to the Book of Me for assistance.  “Oh, here it is, in writing, I’ve done this before and it was, in fact, a mistake.  I can take that option off the table. Whew.”

The Book of Me will always be evolving, so I think it would be best to use a 3-ring binder (a really fun 3-ring binder that I have to get to buy!) and, of course, fun paper and markers.  Maybe glitter glue.

If I had already started my Book of Me, I wouldn’t be crashed in bed today, unable to even think about the Hospital.

Yes.  I did what I said I would never do again the last time my Mom was deathly ill and in the hospital for a long time.  (Note:  1.5 years ago she had c.diff. — a “superbug” that you can only get at the hospital — right after her bladder surgery revealed the ovarian cancer.  Anyway, 3+ weeks in the hospital + rehab=nightmare.)  I burned myself out emotionally and physically and have totally  crashed.  It’s noon, I’m in my jammies, in bed, writing and feeling like I will never have the strength to do what I need to do, for example, shower and go back to the Hospital.

Here are some notes from Me to Me for the next time (and the rest of this time):

Topic:  Hospitals and Horribleness, things to remember:

  1. You are not a nurse, sweetie.  Yes, you wanted to be one, and people think you would be a great nurse, but you are not a nurse.  You have a lot of patience, but not nurse level patience.  And that is perfectly fine!  You are not the nurse!
  2. As much as you hate leaving the room when someone is in the hospital, you HAVE TO TAKE A BREAK.  Why?  Because you become weird and resentful (of other people who leave the room) and, eventually, you get to a point of freak-out.  Then you start believing that you will never be able to go back into the room.  It’s all bad from there.  Just take a break.
  3. Breaks in the Hospital are good, but leaving the Hospital altogether is better.
  4. Write down your questions for the Doctors and nurses.  You think you will remember and then you don’t.  Then you beat yourself up.  Write them down.
  5. A little “comfort food” is fine when bad shit happens, but for prolonged bad shit, you really need to be mindful of what you are putting into your body.  Try to limit comfort food.  I know, just try…
  6. This would be a really good time to get some exercise.  You know it is true.
  7. Schedule time away from the Hospital and take it.  It is ok to check on the patient, but if you spend the entire time that you are away feeling guilty for being away and checking in, you have really just robbed yourself of the benefit of being away.  You haven’t restored yourself, which was the goal.  You must restore yourself or you will not be good for anyone else.
  8. Ask for help.  People won’t help if you don’t ask them.  Sometimes they will say “no”.  Try to understand where they are coming from.  We all have our own strengths/weaknesses.
  9. Try to stay on top of regular life things:  laundry, mail, bills, etc.  It is hard to do this in an emergency situation, but (believe me) if you get behind AND the bad shit goes on for a long time, it is really super hard to get caught up.  Knowing that stuff needs to be done/addressed weighs on you, even when it isn’t in the front of your mind.  Trust me on this.
  10. You are a person who absolutely, positively needs a certain amount of solitude in order to even function in this world.  This doesn’t change because someone you love is in the Hospital/ill.  Other people may not understand this and may think you are “weak” or “flaky”.  You aren’t.  You are a person who recharges by being alone.  This is how you stay sane.  Trust yourself to know when you need to be alone and when you are ready to interact meaningfully.  It is ok if others don’t understand.  They don’t live in your head.
  11. Don’t wash your hands with that foam awfulness and then touch your face!!!  Your skin always reacts and then you have to deal with that on top of everything else.
  12. Always remember Now is not Then.  Let Now happen the way it is supposed to happen.


This is good stuff!  Just writing this has made me feel better about today.  I need this time.  Feeling guilty about taking it is counter-productive + just plain mean.  Mom is fine.  She is in good hands.  She has family there for most of the day.  Getting up and dressed doesn’t mean I have to go to the hospital, I am allowed to take care of my own life even when Mom is sick.  She knows I am not abandoning her.  Next time I will plan better and make sure everyone knows when I will not be at the Hospital.  That will make me feel less anxious.

Am I the last to know about this Book of Me technique?



p.s.  thanks for all your support!  mom was moved into the rehab unit yesterday.  she stunned us all (and herself) by going from complete immobility in right arm/hand to picking up a pen and writing her name??!!  then she was able to put a magical cheeto in her mouth.  i heard a rumor that she moved her right leg today…. yay for progress!  one day at a time….


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6 responses to “The Book of Me: Notes on Hospitals and Horribleness

  1. Sue T

    So glad your Mom is showing improvement.
    And thanks for modeling the hospital things-to-remember.
    There may be some escape places in the hospital too, maybe they have a library where you could hide out for a while?

    • kim

      Thanks Sue!

      You are right! I totally forgot that they have a couple of very nice outdoor patio areas at the hospital where I could just go and sit and soak up some sun. Thanks for the tip… 🙂

  2. irene

    Nice project, Book of ME! you’re inspiring Kim. hey, did you get my VM today? . . . still praying! love, irene

  3. Pingback: Confidently Walk the Maze of “Hospital World” « the rest of the story…

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