I am only a nurse practitioner

As I walk through the side entrance of the hospital, my white coat flapping in the Texas breeze, I am quiet and introspective. What will the day hold for me? Do I have the knowledge and skills necessary for assessing and diagnosing my patients? Will I know the current evidence based guidelines? Am I good enough to do this job? 

When my patients enter the hospital, they have a problem which is causing them physical or psychological distress. They did not come into my professional realm for a social call, they need me to intervene and fix the problem. Usually, by the time they are admitted to the floor, they have already been examined and assessed by a physician in the emergency room, and it was deemed necessary to admit them to the hospital for further evaluation and care.

I look over the information obtained in the ER and try to come up with a list of questions I need to have the answer to. I have to evaluate past medical history, family history, personal habits, current medication, and finally complete an interview which is followed by a physical examination. Sometimes, if I am lucky, there are symptoms and risk factors that are glaringly obvious and I know an effective treatment for the malady. Other times, most of the time it seems, I am handed a vague list of complaints which fail to give me a concrete diagnosis. Now, I have to evaluate the things I cannot see with the naked eye or hear through my stethoscope. Subjective complaints are the most difficult to assess. Is the patient telling me the entire story? Are they being truthful? What am I missing? How do I get more information? How can I get this quantified? Is this part of the story pertinent? What else do I need to know? How do I avoid offending or embarrassing this person that came to me for help? How do I bring up sensitive topics? How do I reassure this person that I care? How do I facilitate communication, while using time wisely?

Now, I am not usually seeing only one patient at a time, and all the information I need is not handed to me in a nice little package. I am waiting for diagnostic results and other professional opinions. I am also juggling the needs of the hospital, insurance regulations, personalities of the patients, their loved ones, other hospital staff, and a ticking clock. I make a decision based on the information at hand, and I have to trust my skills to obtain all the information.

I have taken my time to listen to the patient, asked invasive questions meant to probe and uncover the secrets their body keeps hidden in a shroud of mystery. I explain my plan of care and explain the results I am seeking from my interventions. I walk out of the room and sit down to record in the official medical record my findings. I have to maneuver my way through an electronic medical record that seems to have been designed to make finding the details of care difficult to find. I am granted peace and quiet, and no one ever interrupts me and breaks my train of thought. Oh, wait that is not true. I am constantly bombarded with questions and requests for my time, attention, and energy.

Constant terror that I missed some potentially fatal condition, or that I will not order the proper intervention or screening lies just under the surface. I find myself double checking and reviewing medications and test results. I discuss the case with my supervising physician. I waiver at times in my resolve. Then, I have to make a decision. I find myself reviewing the case with other members of the health care team and asking for their insight on the patient’s condition. I attempt to make sure the nurses concerns are addressed. I seek to educate and give them insight to the rationale for proposed treatment. I have to give them options and hope they are agreeable to the plan. I have no power to force compliance. So, my argument had better be convincing. I have to be able to communicate with people regardless of the language they speak, their cultural biases, and their education and intelligence level. I have to provide care that is accessible to everyone regardless of the barriers to knowledge. I have to find a solution for any roadblock. This requires extensive knowledge and comprehension of an unending list of resources and rules for utilization. It also requires the ability to overcome whatever social issues arise. I am tasked with having difficult conversations, while maintaining a professional manner.

One of the biggest issues I face is discharge planning, which actually begins the moment a patient enters the hospital. What has to happen in order for the patient to be deemed stable for discharge? What kind of follow-up care will they need? How am I going to plot a course of improved health for this individual? What are the financial implications? What resources are available? What are the rules for the care I seek? How do I properly justify medical necessity?

Oh! Don’t forget patient satisfaction scores affect every thing I do. If the patient is not happy with the proposed treatment, or if they feel something else would be more enjoyable, they can affect the amount of reimbursement the hospital receives in the future. How do I satisfy someone when they are sick? How do I explain the difficulties with pain control? Is it my job to somehow make you pain-free, when there is some part of your body malfunctioning? How do I make the patient understand they have to get out of bed when all they want to do is sleep through this process? How do I make them happy about the dietary restrictions for their particular condition?

Sometimes, I go and speak to a patient and spend a considerable amount of time with them, I explain my role and that I am going to be providing their medical care. Yes, I am operating under the supervision of a physician, and I would not have it any other way. After I have gone over every thing and I have documented the encounter adequately, and met with all the members of the healthcare team, I hear this statement, “The patient and their family are upset because no one has talked to them today.” I am sorry, but WHAT? I just spent an hour with this patient and their family IN THE ROOM. This is not including all the time spent with care coordination and other necessary actions. OH…. you want a DOCTOR. Okay. No problem. Now, I have to approach the physician who I have reviewed the case with, assured them I have it under control, and review and recap the entire case, explain exactly what I have done, and reiterate the entire conversation I had with the patient and the family. The doctor walks in the room and spends a couple of minutes, and magically every thing is right with the world.

I am left feeling moderately unimportant. I have spent time to pull up a chair, listened compassionately, and truly worked so hard to take good care of you. I feel like all of my hard work was for nothing. The patient and their family were not pleased with my efforts. They wanted a doctor. I get it. I really do. The problem is… if I am being honest, at times it hurts my feelings. I know it shouldn’t. I am able to think through it and brush it off, but I am left with a little bruise on my ego.

You see, I am only a nurse practitioner. I am not a physician. I am competent to provide medical care, and I know my limits. I have no qualms with admitting when I do not know the correct answer, and I am not afraid to ask for help. I crave and value the education my supervising physicians provide for me on a continual basis, and I am never offended when they provide alternative treatment plans or point me in a different direction. I am a physician extender. They are ultimately responsible for the care I provide. I respect that role. I respect my role.

I work hard to gain new information and to learn more about caring for patients. I like to gain new understanding from other specialities perspective. I look up the things I have never heard of or don’t particularly understand. I am exquisitely curious, and I am driven to constantly be better. My professional goals center on providing the best care possible for the patient. I am here to provide safe, competent medical care.

Due to my professional path, I am still a nurse. I have a complete grasp of the realities and responsibility of this role. I was also a unit secretary. I understand the complexities of the relationships between all the people on the team. Sometimes this is a hindrance. I held myself to high standards, and sometimes I find myself judging other people as harshly as I judge myself. I have to work continuously to encourage and promote open lines of communication. I want the other people involved in providing care to feel they can come to me with any issue or question that arises. This is difficult at times because I am entrenched in my own inner battle with my own insecurities.

I am not certain if the fear of making mistakes is normal for all healthcare providers, but I believe this fear keeps me on my toes. The balance between humility and confidence is sometimes difficult to achieve, and I fear I may fail to provide the necessary reassurance that I will do every thing in my power to meet your needs. It is difficult to be confident when every thing is so gray. I think this may be one of the most difficult parts of my job.

I have learned healthcare providers are just human. We are attempting to unlock the mysteries of your body, and there are infinite factors that must be considered. We are bound by limitations of medical knowledge, as well as the logistical nightmare of resource utilization. We can offer suggestions and proposed treatments, and we can attempt to forecast the results of those treatments. However, we are left powerless as to the actual outcomes. We do our best. We do what has worked the best in the most number of people possible.

Nothing is guaranteed, yet we are held responsible for the end result. If you live, God saved you. If you die, we killed you. This is a huge burden. The emotional toll it takes on me when there are bad outcomes has to be faced head-on. I have to process the feelings, evaluate the situation, and hopefully learn a lesson. Sometimes the lesson is simply a reminder of human limitations and the fact we are all mortal.

So, I live in constant fear and feel an enormous amount of obligation to provide the best care for my patients. I have to push my ego aside and bury my pride. I have to portray myself as competent to facilitate confidence in my abilities. I have to remember my limitations, while simultaneously trusting my skills and intuition. I will chase every resource available to improve your health or quality of life. Sometimes, the patient or their family’s wishes are in direct opposition to the best treatment. We are tasked to keep someone alive on life support when their quality of life is dismal. Or, we keep providing measures that simply prolong suffering when there is no chance of survival. These cases are distressing. Running a code on someone when in reality further care is futile seems like torture. However, we are not in charge of what care the patient receives. We offer advice and suggestions, everyone is allowed to make their own decisions. It is difficult to keep every thing in perspective when we are held responsible for the outcomes when the proposed plan of care is not carried out or the patient refuses to comply with instructions and advice.

Please do not forget the required tasks involved in maintaining licensure, hospital privileges, and employment. I have continuing education, certifications, privileges, and meetings I am required to attend. I have to juggle the business of being employed with providing patient care. I have to put my personal life on hold, and out of mind while I focus on life and death issues. I also have to make time for the people in my life who need me to be there. I cannot be preoccupied with work stuff. The amount of compartmentalization required to be a healthcare provider is enormous. I have to remind myself to put work on a shelf sometimes. It is difficult to not be consumed by it all. 

Please, just remember: The physicians and other members of your healthcare team are only human and we cannot perform magic. We do the best we can. I have to be remain constantly vigilant. After all, I am only a nurse practitioner.

Journalists are first responders too.

My heart is heavy today. Another senseless act of violence perpetrated in the most public forum possible. This shooter apparently had a long history of feeling persecuted, and he suffered professionally as a result. According to an article in Newsweek, Flanagan had sued a previous employer for discrimination in response to reported comments disparaging him because of his race. The case was settled for an undisclosed amount of money in 2000. A copy of the complaint is available on the Newsweek article. That’s enough about this dude, I want to talk about the parts I understand.

Yep, that is me- in the dog suit. Went to the fair, pep rallies, and even the MDA Telethon. The ice packs only helped a little. I complained bitterly about it, but who does not secretly dream of wearing “fur” in 100 degree weather? I secretly enjoyed it, but don’t tell anyone that.
I was incredibly fortunate as a teenager. I had a news director at my local TV station allow me to complete an internship in the news department. I was the first high school student to be granted this privilege. I learned so much during that semester, and the opportunity allowed me to gain employment as an associate producer at KLBK when I was 16. Most of my responsibilities were similar to my responsibilities when I was an intern, I ripped scripts, ran the teleprompter, pulled a few stories from the AP wire, and edited some of the video. Sometimes I got to tag along for special events, and I was the mascot (I actually wore a dog suit) for a short time.

I loved my job. It was exciting and fun. I learned a lot of skills which have proven useful in my current career. One of the most important skills I learned is how to deal with people who have (for lack of a better word,) strong personalities. I believe performing on air requires a certain amount of self importance, and self confidence in order to be convincing as a talent. Most of the people I worked closely with were (and still are) amazingly generous people, and I am a better person for having them in my life at such a young age. Tensions ran high frequently in the newsroom, and it is not a place for sensitive people. There are deadlines that cannot be missed, and you have to please a fickle public and more importantly, you have to please your advertisers. The ratings have to be considered, AND you have to use integrity and ethical reporting while not offending the public. Sure, it is a high stress environment.

While our journalists are not often considered “first responders” in the way healthcare providers and police officers are, they do put themselves in harm’s way in order to provide a public service. They are the information centers of our society. Even in our social media crazed society, we still turn on the local news when the weather is ominous. When there is a developing story involving active shooters or bomb threats (just an example), our journalists do not seek cover, they rush to the scene and deliver the most current updates. I like to believe they are acting to keep us safe.

Journalists are tasked with gathering information, and the public is constantly demanding more. We expect in-depth reporting, and exciting video to stimulate our constant craving for adrenaline. We reward the most daring journalists with our hits, tweets, and shares. Only the most exciting (or perhaps adorable) video goes viral.

I am one of the worst critics, and I tend to hold people (especially professionals) to high standards. I frequently forget to express my gratitude, and in light of this public tragedy, I want to now.

I don’t know what this guys problem was. Frankly, I don’t care. I think he is most likely an asshole with a mental illness. Keep in mind, not everyone who is mentally ill is violent. I could spout a bunch of crap on here about the need for gun control and reform for mental healthcare, but I am not.

I just want to thank all the journalists who provide this public service for me. I appreciate the work you do. I also appreciate all the people who took me under their wing when I was just a kid, and taught me so much about looking for the story. You were my first mentors.

Lastly, my thoughts are with the coworkers, families, and friends of the victims of this crime. I am so sorry for your loss. I appreciate the service your loved ones provided for the public.

Dashing Dirty through The Land of Enchantment

Before the mud bath. I thought we were going to a spa. Where is my facial? You forgot the champagne. What is wrong with us?
I had no idea there would be this much mud in our friendship.

This weekend I got to go play in the mud with my friends in Albuquerque. For those of you who do not know, New Mexico’s state motto is The Land of Enchantment. For me, it is simply where some of my muddy friends live.

Don’t worry- I am only moderately terrified.

The race location made it easy to choose a meeting up point, the 505 also happens to be convenient for the Texan, Coloradians, and Arizonians. (Is this the right way to say that? Coloradian? Arizonian? I have no idea.) I think I underestimated the altitude difference. Lubbock is about 3200 feet above sea level. The park where the race was held is about 6700 feet above sea level. I believe that would not have felt as different, except I have been spending most of my time in Mount Pleasant, which is about 350 feet above sea level. I did not know I would be craving supplemental oxygen in the last mile.

Even my shirt knew! I am a princess! Thanks Rebecca for making the shirts. You are magic.

Now, this is ONLY a 5K, this should have been a cake walk. Yeah, right. Someone did not get the memo. I am a princess. Where were my gladiators who were supposed to carry me? Oh, I know. They were on top of the swing set with the rope ladder that is my new nemesis.

It could not have been that tall, maybe just 8 feet or so. I did climb up high enough that all I needed to do is swing my leg over and crawl down the other side. It is so easy! Damn. There is no way I am climbing over that. Why am I so paralyzingly afraid of heights? People try to be supportive and nice. “You can do it!” “Almost there!” “Go Nyki!” Grrrr. Bite me. I don’t do well with supportive comments. They leave me all angsty and resentful. Climbing over things kills me. I have no idea why I am so petrified of this. Someday I will figure it out.

Now, if you have been reading my blog, or even just talking to me since I started all this muddy fun, you know I did a Tough Mudder with my health club friends. You know what a big deal it all is, and you know I am doing another one in October. This little 5K should have been easy! It kicked my tail! The Tough Mudder is 10-12 miles with about 20 obstacles, and this was a little over 3 miles with about 20 mud pits, and maybe 7-8 other obstacles.

This is a good picture. We were muddy and having a blast. There are still many more chances for face plants. I was still naive about how much muddy fun the course had in store for us.

Let me be completely honest, being a fat chick rolling around and trying to climb out of muddy pits with a slew of other people poses certain hazards. There is no traction. A little part of you dies when you go sliding backwards from the top back into the slimy abyss. Then, you slowly realize you are holding your friends back. Now, it is time to push yourself on. You stop laughing and joking. You are concentrating on not looking like a fool.

I suppose I may have looked like I was dying. Complete strangers were offering words of support. I get it. You are trying to be nice. There was not one word of negativity spoken out loud. It was all in my head. In spite of the negative mantra playing on repeat in my head, it was FUN! I had to remind myself I was having fun, and I have come to the conclusion this is what it takes for me. I have spent years telling myself what I CAN’T do… and this new way of life is still foreign to me. That’s just fine. I always wanted to see foreign lands.

There were a ton of mud pits. I climbed through a lot of them, then I was just trying to get through the darn course. I was tired. I was grumpy. I desperately wanted to take my shoes off. There was mud caked in places mud should never be. Then, we got to the end. There was a giant ladder thing that led to a slide. No big deal right? WRONG! It looked like a straight drop down to certain death. There were people behind me, so there was no way to edge my way back down. I was facing mortal humiliation or mortal fear. So, down I flew. There were most likely (I know there really were) obscenities spewing from my mouth. It was one of the scariest half seconds of my life. When I came crashing off the end of the slide, I was laughing so hard. It was so much fun.

I survived. It was fun. The Under Armour compression shorts were the best purchase I ever made. (There is not a pic of me in my underwear. Sorry folks.

Then, we were done. There was none of the crying and sheer relief that came from finishing Tough Mudder. This was just a short jaunt in the park. I woke up a little sore the next morning, but my body was not in severe pain, simply wishing for death. Nope, just a few groans when I had to sit or stand.

See? Mud washes off.

So, what is the big deal? I am learning to go out and do harder things. I am learning to quell my inner mean girl. She is mostly just mean to me anyway. I don’t need that girl hanging around. She interferes with my adventures.

I have friends all over the country, and even a few in other countries. It is so great to be able to go experience new things with these people. I am so excited to keep finding new adventures. It is a little bittersweet to leave my new friends behind for the trip home, back to reality. No worries though, I am headed back to the 505 in a couple of weeks to go to a brew fest… hopefully, there will be no mud.

On my way home!


Why do we gravitate to people and places from our past?

Nostalgia is a dangerous friend. She tends to paint our memories with warm and inviting hues, all while editing out the reasons we left in the first place. Perhaps this is why we pine for that one guy or remember our former relationships as much happier and healthier than they ever could have been. Oh, and he is the most handsome and the funniest dude we ever met. We cannot imagine finding anyone as special as he is.

So, you remember my job? The one I am divorcing? It cracks me up that I am so much happier now, and I still find myself only remembering the good times and wondering if I will ever have those experiences again. I do not allow myself to wallow in these destructive thoughts for long, however I find them creeping about when I least expect it. I am so grateful for my new opportunities and I am really thriving. So, why do I long for familiar people and places?

I actually believe this is normal. You know the old saying, “the grass is always greener,” is not always true. The interesting part is how our emotions influence our memories and how it is shockingly fluid. My mood at any given time can profoundly impact my personal version of events. If I am enjoying my day at the new job, I tend to remember the old one with disdain. I ruminate on the days I felt ostracized and taken advantage of. I remember how it felt when I was banging my head against the wall, wishing for an escape hatch. The very next day can find me lonely and homesick, and I only remember the good times. I find myself wistful and longing for the ease of familiar places and people. I miss the inside jokes (Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.) and the comfort of being able to be myself.

The other day I was at my old clinic seeing a few patients. When I first got there I felt horribly discombobulated, and I was terribly lonely. My dungeon of an office had been made over for a new doctor, and I felt like I was trespassing. I was adrift in a sea of fluorescent lighting. I did not belong there. It was not like a homecoming at all! Don’t get me wrong, it was not all bad. Once a couple of people walked in the door and we were catching up, my mood settled and I was happy again. By the time I left, the nostalgia had taken root again and I was wishing I could turn back the clock and start over and correct my mistakes from the past.

Unfortunately, you really can’t go home again. I imagine this is similar to trying to return and assimilate back into your hometown decades later. You remember things as they were, and it is impossible to anticipate the influence of time. Everything changes. You are not the only one who grew up. My ego is fragile, and I can’t believe this place could survive without me. Ha! They are doing just fine. They managed to function before me, and they will function without me. I am not that important. This may be the worst part. I poured my heart into this job, and that probably was not necessary. I placed entirely too much value on this role. I let it become my definition of self. I did not know who I was without it. Talk about unhealthy. 

Now I have a unique opportunity. I am learning to stand on my own two feet professionally. I have heard people say “your first job should never be your last,” and I think that is true. Just like a family, you were a kid when you started, and sometimes you have to be shoved (even if it is against your will) kicking and screaming from the nest. If you are especially clingy, (I am not saying I am) you may clutch the side of the nest and hang on for dear life, all the while pleading for someone to just pull you back in. Seriously, this is ridiculous. Well, it is! It was long past time to move on, and you were miserable! The situation had ceased to be healthy. 

I know people think I am being overly dramatic when I compare leaving my old job to a divorce, but divorce is the best way for me to explain the constant ebb and flow of emotion surrounding it. I still find myself vacillating between relief and nostalgic grief. I am sincerely ready for simple acceptance to take root. I truly believe this is right around the corner. The best thing I did was put physical distance between the job and myself. Oh, except you still work there sometimes. Is that similar to a booty call? Yikes! I had not thought of that. Oh well. Sigh. I suppose you gotta get some somewhere. I am mostly kidding. Sort of. Not as much as I would like. 

Now, please understand. I need to keep an open relationship with this place. I need the security. They are still my work family. I like to have roots. Much like a toddler, I want freedom to roam but I still need a mother ship to keep me grounded. So, the prodigal daughter will come back from time to time, and I will ride the emotional roller coaster, then I will head back out on the open road and continue to seek new adventures and input just like Johnny 5. (I’ve been trying to figure out how to put that reference in here for like 30 minutes.) I had no idea I would be so drawn to a quasi-nomadic existence. I am finding it suits me and at least I am not bored. I just like to return to my home base regularly.


Can someone please explain this to me. This looks like a backboard suspended on pulleys between two buildings at my new hospital. Why? Why would someone put this here? Why has no one else ever noticed it? Believe me, I have asked. This is driving me nuts. I see it every day. Perhaps they ran out of closet space? It is there in case the need for emergency evacuations requires a backboard? Maybe it is a message for incoming alien spacecraft. Seriously. What is this thing? Who put it there? Is it a prank? Hmmm


One Year and The Top Ten Things I Have Learned.

So, it has been a year since I started this blog. Personally, I like to think I have learned a lot from the exercise. So, what have I learned?

  1. It is okay to use my voice in my writing. I guess the alternative would be using someone else’s voice and who needs that? 
  2. I think my excessive use of commas is improving… oh, and I don’t use as many … and — . hehe. By the way, I am not losing the italics or the parenthesis; I love them. 
  3. I have given myself permission to be honest in my writing. I can share my experience, and it really does not matter how other people feel about it. I can be unapologetically me. What a nice change of pace. It really got old, all the apologizing for being myself. People either like me or they don’t. I don’t worry about it as much anymore. 
  4. I still have a lot to learn about grammar. Damn, I wish I had paid more attention in school. I thought it was all so boring. Now I watch YouTube videos about punctuation in my free time. If only Mrs. Roe could see me now. 
  5. My friend (the one I affectionately call Lil’ Bro) does not like lists. I am just throwing this in here to see if he is reading this. 
  6. I really want to be a writer. It turns out, googling How to be a writer is extraordinarily not helpful. 
  7. I need to proofread more. Yeah, no promises. I am probably still going to fail at this.
  8. I love words. Finding new words and figuring out how to use them is way too much fun. It has helped combat my sense of ennui. See what I did there? 
  9. I see the world a little differently. I am paying more attention, and finding potential story lines. Why else would I name a random raccoon Bandito Del Toro and a green cricket Buddy Hoppy? Seriously. 
  10. Perfection is not required. This has been a really good lesson for me. I used to avoid anything I could not do perfectly. Now, I enjoy the process so much more. I don’t have to wait until I figure it all out. I can live and write now. I can do the best I can, and that is enough. 
It’s not a road trip without an obligatory selfie. I remember back when I never took photos. That was a shame. Why do we do that? Yet another topic to ponder someday in a blog post.

It has been a year since I started this blog. I am growing as a person and I can see the changes in every aspect of my life. I am happier, healthier, and becoming a better person. I still have so much to learn and I am so grateful. Life is good today.

So, Happy Birthday to my blog.

Where is the breeze?


There is absolutely no breeze here. The night (well, it is actually morning) is still. The wildlife, (insects, really) are chirping and calling to each other. I love this time of morning. This is when I get to wake up and write.

Writing has become an essential part of my week. I would like to say I find time to write every day, however life gets in the way sometimes. I am not completely convinced I have anything important or useful to say, however I am certain I enjoy this new ritual. (Perhaps it is not all that new anymore.)

I go back and read some of the older things I have written, and sometimes I want to rewrite them or update them. I think that may end up being one of my projects. The fun part is trying to think of interesting ways to frame certain thoughts. I do not want this to become a journal. I want it to be an exercise in self-expression and finding my voice.

Writing is the place I can say exactly what I want. I can edit it, and take the time to attempt to get my point across. I get to tell someone what I think without them interrupting and influencing my diatribe. I don’t have to change my opinion based on other’s feedback. This is the one place I don’t have to respond to you. It’s rather selfish, and gloriously self-involved. This is my corner of the world.

I love a good story. An interesting tidbit or juicy detail that illuminates your personality. I grow and learn from your experiences as well as mine. Some people are gifted story tellers. Sometimes it is the colloquialisms they use or the timing they employ to make the punch line zing. Not every story is a joke, but the good ones have a point where one stops and just enjoys the moment.

I am so grateful today. I have been lucky to know so many people who are full of interesting stories. Their adventures keep me curious about the world. I hope I figure out how to write my stories so that others can enjoy them. I am going to keep working on it. Our stories are how we become immortal. Until then, I have to go to work.

Am I am Humanist?

  I have devoted much of my life to defining my … for lack of a better word, spirituality.

It has been a struggle. I have attempted (and failed) to assimilate into Christianity. I have tried to be “Spiritual, not religious,” and I have often considered myself agnostic. All of these have left me with a huge void in my life. I do not get the same peace others speak about. All I am left with is more questions than answers.

I try not to judge. If your religion works for you, I respect that. I respect it works for you. I no longer try to kid myself into believing it will work for me. I am no longer wandering down that lonely street.

The terminology applied to those who do not believe seems to be shrouded in negativity. I do not like the term atheist. That seems to imply I have missed something, or I am living without a moral compass.

For me, the opposite is true. I have a strong moral and ethical viewpoint of the world. I believe in attempting to be useful. I believe in mankind. I believe we should help our fellow man. I believe we should care about our communities. This does not make me a bad person.

I have sought religious comfort and conversion on many levels. I have “prayed” for God to “enter my heart” and show me the path to righteous salvation. I have been “saved” and I have been baptized. I wanted to belong to this community so badly. I found fear and isolation instead. I felt alienated from the group. I must be broken or faulty since I cannot find faith. This has been a struggle. The isolation I experienced trying to find God was painful. God would heal me. He didn’t. It wounded me in way I did not think I would ever repair. I did not deserve to live a good life. God did not want me.

My profession has granted me so many gifts. I finally found a way to serve other people, and I did not have to pray or turn my will over to a doctrine I did not understand. I am able to help by caring about other people. I can give my time. I can spend my energy learning and improving my skills. I have dedicated my life to being better. More importantly, I have dedicated my life to being of service.

Through my reading and research on my inability to form religious roots, I have found I am not unique. There is a whole school of thought centered in my beliefs. I am relieved to know I am not broken. I can find a segment of society where I am not an outcast. I do not have to go to church to meet a nice boy. (Funny: one of my patients this week is praying for me to find a good, godly man.)

I get it. For some people religion fills a void. Unfortunately for me, religion is too exclusive. I have been told to believe or leave. My doubts were viewed as an attack on their culture. I felt horrible. I was obviously a horrible person. Thanks for that. Your religion told me I was worthless as a child because I had questions. My attempts to understand “The word of God,” and what it meant in relationship to humanity as a whole, left me out in the cold.

I needed support and encouragement. I needed to be told it was okay to not believe. I did NOT need to be judged and damned to “hell” for not blindly following you. By the way, you all believe different things. You take what you want literally, and if it does not advance your agenda, you disregard it. I was trying to understand the rules. I wanted to be a good person. I did not want to lump everyone who had different ideas into a camp of morally bankrupt, evil people. I wanted to understand.

I have had people walk up to me, and say things like “Aren’t you Christian?” If you could just hear their tone of voice. It is offensive. I finally stopped pretending. I just said no. They quietly backed away waiting for lightening to strike.

Some people may be upset I am writing this. I am sorry to disappoint you. I wanted to believe. I just don’t. It does not seem rational to me. I can no longer pretend to believe in this supernatural omnipotent being who likes to meddle in the lives of human beings. Oh! He only gets credit for the good stuff though. All the bad stuff is either Satan, or attributed to free will. Sigh.

When my son was young, he had a stutter. (It was fixed with speech therapy. You know, science.) Anyway, his well-meaning grandfather prayed for Satan to leave his body. (Not on my side of the family, I assure you.) I have never been more angry. Don’t tell my child he has a demon inside him! What the actual fuck is wrong with you? No. That is not okay. That will never be okay. 

There are so many bad things in the world I attribute to religion. War, terrorism, bullying… It is not this grand loving scenario. To me, it is just another way to exclude people. No, thank you. I am good without all that.

This is not about religion bashing. This is about me. I have many people in my life who are devoutly religious. I actually respect it from them. I believe they believe it wholeheartedly. I believe them when they say they are praying for someone. I do not expect people to hide their religious views.

All I ask is please, don’t try to force me into agreeing with you. That makes me a liar. Please don’t demand my soul. I will continue to try to help society and to serve my fellow man. Just don’t paint me into a corner and tell me I am going to hell. That is cruel. I am not possessed by demon spirits. I am not a secret devil worshipper. I am not amoral. I have a strong ethical base. I know the difference between right and wrong. I respect your freedom from religious persecution. Please respect mine.

PS: I do not have a problem with you expressing your views. I am not going to go around and tell you you are wrong. I am going to respect you, and know that it is your truth. That is okay. Right?