“I know that there were a lot of things that I wanted to do but didn’t seem possible for me in 1966.”
Even as a teenager, Andrade sought to reconcile her healing and spiritual impulses in a professional context, considering the seclusion of a convent after high school. When her desire to know more of the world eventually won out, Andrade, who describes herself as “a huge fan of the Beatles, and also a huge Royalist” decided the next best thing was to pursue nursing education in England—although she stipulates that she’s seen both the Fab Four and the Queen more times in her native Canada than in the UK.
(Unbelievably, the one time she did catch the boys from Liverpool across the pond was at their famous 1969 rooftop concert on Saville Row, although Andrade reports that “By that time I didn’t really care much about them anymore,” because she had “sort of let music go for a long time,” in favor of books.)
It was also in England that Andrade met and married her husband. From there the couple moved to his native Jamaica before eventually returning to Canada; yet while in the islands, she was on-hand for the birth of reggae music and the emergence of bands like Toots and the Maytals and The Wailers.
“I tell people if you want to send me anything as a present, just send me an iTunes gift card,” she laughs. “Music has a tremendous value in healing, and that’s how I see it—as tool for healing.”
An ordained interfaith minister, Andrade takes a holistic both approach to medicine and the arts. She says she needs music to write, and for years, writing has dominated her creative interests. Whether taking her inspiration from k.d. lang, who “has the kind of voice that just gets to the core of my heart,” or Hank Locklin’s Brylcreem-steeped country hit, “Please Help Me, I’m Falling,” Andrade has always been moved by love stories.
“A song is really a story in a very small format, and there’s always a backstory to every song,” she says. “I believe that the great Collective Unconscious is out there, and we are all able to participate with it [to tell our own stories].”
For years, Andrade wrote fan fiction based on the universe of the 1987 CBS television drama “Beauty and the Beast,” including a pair of epic, 100,000-word novellas that can only be shared online due to licensing restrictions. Her most recent self-published novel, “Suspect, Love,” however, is anchored in the more concrete universe of the medical profession. It details a torrid love affair between a pair of socially isolated hospital colleagues who must then abandon their romance for professional reasons.
“I think that story just came out of the sadness I feel for people who are misunderstood and people who struggle,” Andrade says. “Their movement and placement and the structure of their lives probably comes from things I’ve experienced. My character’s a nurse because I’m a nurse, and I am familiar with that milieu. I try to access their feelings rather than my own.”
Another source of the conflict Andrade presents in her novel is culturally derived. Rosanna, the ingénue of “Suspect, Love” is an MSN from southern Ontario who hails from a strict Italian immigrant family. Andrade herself grew up in an Italian community and says she spoke the language until it fell out of use in her 20s.
“My first boyfriend was Italian, and all the fathers of all my school friends, that’s what their dads were like,” she says. “I see that protectiveness of the old-fashioned way of men at that time.”
Andrade also confesses that Angus, her intense, detached, Scotch-Canadian male protagonist, was drawn from the rather lasting impressions that Sean Connery made on her as James Bond.
“He was just exquisite in the way he walked and looked and behaved,” she says. “Slim like how Barack Obama is slim; that long, sinewy muscle. Those are the kind of men I like,” she chuckles.
But far from merely crafting a harlequin romance in which her own particular fantasies could flourish (take that, Stephenie Meyer!) Andrade says it was as important for her characters to be believable as well-rounded human beings with real-life, professional drives in addition to their romantic impulses.
“I am sick and tired about reading books and stories about nurses who do things that don’t enhance the profession,” she says. “I wanted to get across the idea that nurses are people who do more than run down the hall saying ‘yes, doctor.’”
Andrade, who still works full-time as a labor and delivery nurse, says that on-the-job professionalism is “extremely important” to her, as is advocating for the needs of the mothers and families that enter into her care. Now in her retirement year, however, she describes herself as “very disenchanted” with the state of nursing today.
“I was a hospital-trained nurse,” she says. “That’s how it was in England. You were on the units in your second year and you worked at the same time. Nowadays [nurses] are in school nine months of the year and they come in for three months.
“Nursing is a practical skill,” she continues. “There’s technical things to learn, but if you don’t spend time interacting with people early, you can’t pick up the skill later on.”
Paramount among the skills Andrade wishes incoming nurses would strengthen is confidence in their knowledge base and the ability to pass that instruction onto others.
“We have to teach people,” she says. “When a new mother is going home, it doesn’t matter whether she’s 16 or 46, there are things that she needs to understand, and you have to be able to assess whether she’s comfortable with that. A lot of nurses just don’t have that ability to inspire patients to feel that they can go home and be comfortable.”
In anticipation of her retirement from the hospital setting, in 1996, Andrade and her sister opened their own health center called Discover the Path in Creemore, ON. The facility offers holistic treatments, body massage, breastfeeding and lactation support and other personal services.
“I wanted to provide a more holistic type of nursing to people,” Andrade says. “If what you needed was body massage and not another injection, if you wanted to talk about diabetes as how it affects your life and not just giving yourself needles, [we could help you] transition from one lifestyle to another holistically.”
Holistic medicine appeals to her culturally and spiritually, Andrade says, because it’s free of the “dogma of religion” that has been “very hard on cultures, hard on genders, and instead of pulling people together, has kept them separate.”
“Spirituality is more open, and I feel I can be more the way I want to be rather than the way my religion said I should be,” she says.
Fellow truth-seekers, Andrade says, can do worse than to hang their own shingles—or in the case of amateur writers—self-publish. After years of whiling away independently, she says, the online presence of writing communities was energizing, and she encourages others of a like mind to pursue it.
“If people want to write, that’s a good place to start,” Andrade says. “You can get an audience for your work and see whether people like what you write. Doing that gave me the confidence to go ahead and publish these books and sell them. I know they’re not highly professional, but writing them has been a great deal of fun and given me a great deal of pleasure.”
For more information on the writings of Judith Andrade, visit her blog at thewilltobetrue.wordpress.com, or contact her at email@example.com.