Gary Tetz

Those magical vaccines, and the precipitous drop in long-term care COVID-19 cases that has followed them, arrived just in time. Many of the nursing home administrators I know were hitting the wall. They didn’t want to admit it, but they weren’t sure how much more they could take. 

“I should be able to handle this, but I’m struggling,” one uber-competent veteran told me, embarrassed at the admission. Not knowing what to say, I muttered something superficially supportive and clumsily changed the topic.

“I don’t have a good answer right now,” I should have said, “but please get back to me in two weeks when I’m blogging about it, and maybe then I’ll have some thoughts.” 

That word “should,” of course, is a big part of the problem. In a recent podcast, Rob Bell, best-selling author and my favorite heretic, shared how he responds these days when someone laments how much better they feel they should be doing. “Oh really?” he says. “Compared to all the other pandemics you’ve been through?”

So whether you’re a seasoned long-term care professional, like you, or a melancholy, self-deprecating pseudo-writer, like me, we all need to let ourselves off the hook. Life is difficult, and we’ve never faced challenges like these. Why shouldn’t we struggle? And why should it surprise us when we do? 

While chatting with a co-worker recently, I shared how upset I was with myself that my exercise program was suboptimal. “But are you doing more than you used to? Are you making progress?” she asked.  I had to reluctantly admit I was, to which she responded, “Well, better is better than worse or the same.” 

Recognizing this as a serendipitous gem of wisdom I should preserve, I ran straight back to my office and wrote it in black Sharpie on a neon green sticky note that’s now affixed prominently in my line of vision. 

Though there’s hope on the horizon and the pandemic end could be truly in sight, these are still challenging times, professionally and personally, and we’re bound to respond imperfectly. So every time we stop to simply breathe. Every walk in the middle of a stressful morning. Every bullet point added to our gratefulness list. Every positive food choice, every minute in meditation, every reluctant treadmill step. Every kind word, every step-back from anger, every benefit of the doubt, every gift of grace extended to another struggling human is a victory that should be celebrated.

Because these days, all we really have to do is better. 

Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a two-time national Silver Medalist and three-time regional Gold and Silver Medal winner in the Association of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) awards program, as well as an Award of Excellence honoree in the recent APEX 2020 Awards. He’s been amusing, inspiring, informing and sometimes befuddling long-term care readers worldwide since the end of a previous century. He is a writer and video producer for Consonus Healthcare Services in Portland, OR.