The LTC Zen master

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Gary Tetz
Gary Tetz

It was just meaningless workplace chatter, signifying nothing. 

I was loitering in the reception area at my place of long-term care employment, a time-tested work avoidance technique I frequently use under the clever guise of reinforcing “the office culture.” 

“Well, good morning, Gary,” said a notoriously cheerful person named Faye. She's the friendly face you see when you walk in the door, and I suspect is the one secretly holding the whole company together. 

Much small talk ensued, and she told me she'd be leaving on vacation soon. “Oh really?” I responded. “How long will you be gone?

 “The whole time.” 

And with those words, Faye officially became my new long-term care Zen master. 

In work and life in general we try to define things in ways that don't matter, rather than just being fully engaged all the time, and staying open to the natural process of things. 

In fact, she might have inadvertently answered most of the important daily questions we face.

How long should I stop to talk to that lonely resident who's impeding my productivity? The whole time. How long do I have to listen, and I mean really listen, to that annoying coworker? The whole time. How long should I spend trying to compassionately understand that angry family member? The whole time. How long should I be sad about that favorite resident who passed away? The whole time.

I know we're expected to forecast, quantify and assign a star to everything we do in this profession, but the important things need to just take what they take. In long-term care especially, where we're dealing with actual lives and emotions at their most raw, we're called to be truly present for whatever happens — no rushing, no multitasking, just staying completely, almost absurdly and counter-productively, there

The whole time. 

Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a national Silver Medalist and regional Gold Medal winner in Humor Writing in the 2014 American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE) awards program.