Friday, September 23, 2011


Tonight, I read an article for my nursing continuing education about happiness. I asked myself the same questions they did in the article. What causes happiness? How do you experience it? Who has the most happiness? Midway through, the researchers offer a formula by Seligman for happiness...
  • H = S + C + V.3 In this formula, enduring happiness (H) depends on the sum of
  • S, the genetic happiness set point (50%)
  • C, the circumstances of a person’s life, such as health
  • V, factors under our voluntary control, such as engaging in a meaningful life.
Really? There is an exact science to what causes us to have pleasure and meaning in life? What is making me happy? Genes? How many facebook friends I have? My job? My faith?
I ponder these questions over as I sit here a 28-year old single woman, somewhat healthy, still recovering from surgery, and away from what I call my home away from home. Honestly, two weeks ago, if you asked me if I was happy, I would say "No". I was leaving the Africa Mercy on medical leave, not enough time to say goodbye to friends or to Sierra Leone for now, and had to travel 36 hours to Texas... Really, not the plans I had made. The weekend proceeding was good- I love my parents, my church family, driving to Sonic and Target, but I was not happy all the time. I had to deal with insurance, anxieties about surgery, and most of all I was homesick for Africa. Last Friday, I celebrated my birthday with my parents and close friends- I was happy to be around people I loved and eat Mexican food. Monday came and through the wonders of the internet (and of course the Holy Spirit), I had people praying all over the world as I walked into the OR as the patient. I felt loved with all the phone calls, messages, flowers, and cards this week. At one point, my happiness probably was based on how much pain medication I had onboard. It was difficult to balance the pain relief when the the medication requires you to eat, but the side effects include nausea. I hope I was a good patient for all my medical friends that came over to take care of me. I proudly showed off my battle wounds (they feel like it) and the pictures that my surgeon printed off of amazing anatomy. I am thankful for my "home nurses"- they made me walk, drink, deep breathe, and try to eat to get me better. We watched movies, talked, and even if it hurt, laughed... maybe my happiness returned? Then I found myself missing my life in Africa- I loved hearing from friends overseas, seeing people enjoying the beach on the weekend, but also feeling a lack of purpose here, and missing my job onboard the ship.
In the end, we waste energy on the pursuit of happiness. In this moment, I can say "I'm suppose to be there" and that would convey unhappiness, but at the same time, I can say, "I'm happy because I am healthy." We make happiness fleeting, when it can be constant if you choose. I think it comes down to finding happiness is in not your genetic code, or your circumstances, but more making the decision to be happy no matter what life brings you.

"Oh, happiness, there's grace enough for us, and the whole human race..." DCB

Seligman MEP. Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment. New York, NY: Free Press; 2004.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Just a few days after my last post, I had a dream that when I awoke, it was still fresh on my mind and pain in my gut- literally. I recall seeing Dr. Kelly, the general surgeon, looking over me, like I was on the OR bed, and telling me I had no hernia, but my gallbladder must come out. Then, Dr. Andrew, the anesthetist, pushed that sleepy drug into my IV as they both were singing "Be Our Guest" when I drifted off into a deeper sleep.
Being an OR nurse, its typical dreaming of surgery so I put the idea away. Got ready for the day, Bible study, breakfast, a busy schedule in OR#4 with cleft lips, and then lunch came later in the afternoon. I opted for the traditional grilled cheese toasty with sweet spicy sauce. I returned to do another max-fax case and started not feeling well... that's when I remembered the dream. Dr. Kelly offered to do an ultrasound and I had blood drawn from the lab. I am so thankful for having access to a doctor and hospital when most of the world does not. Thankfully, blood work was normal, but Dr. Kelly did confirm I had little baby gallstones. Not the dream I would like to come true, but it did. The following days, I was torn with what to do... "Can I live with gallstones and risk being sick in Africa? Should I stay or go stateside to get help?" I was able to eat/drink soup and continue to work in the OR. The pain was tolerable, but I could tell I needed to get help. I felt loved by all my coworkers who wanted to do my surgery there on the ship. I bought my ticket to the states and started to get my life in order... more like my calendar. Trained nurses for plastic surgery, finding friends to cover my Starbucks night, lead the Esther Bible study, and take care of the JH girls while I'm gone. I did not want to leave. Of course I put off doing laundry and packing until my last night and also worked until 9pm being on-call. My questions then turned to "Why God would you take me away from something I love so much? This is where I'm suppose to be- serving you and loving these people." I did not want to leave. I had so many prayers as word got around so I was feeling better, but friends continued to tell me to take care of myself so I can take care of others.
Despite my stubbornness, I took medical leave from ship. As I saw the mountains of Sierra Leone disappear in the clouds, it was hard to hold back the tears. Traveled for next 36 hours... always wanting to turn back around and fly back to the place I call home. And now, two weeks since that dream, its hard to distinguish between my two homes. I love being here in Texas with my parents, seeing my best friends, eating mexican food (yes, its tolerable!), shopping at Target, and even driving through Dallas traffic- not as bad as Sierra Leone, but do I ever miss it!
I visited the surgeon today and he hopes to do surgery to remove my gallbladder on Monday if insurance works out. Prayers are much appreciated for the insurance process, surgery, and recovery so I return quickly to Sierra Leone. I am trusting God knows best and I am here for a reason, so I am resting in his sovereignty and peace. Next week, when the anesthesiologist is giving me the sleepy drug, I just hope my dreams are of Africa.


The views expressed here are solely mine and are not the opinion of AWC/Mercy Ships.