Monday, September 18, 2017

For a Living

It's hard for me to make sense of what I do "for a living." Those quotation marks denote sarcasm, in this case. I went to university for greater than four years to learn a set of skills and knowledge that would prepare me to blur the boundaries between your life and mine for 12 hours out of the day.

Sometimes I see the bad news before you do, and I let myself go cry in the bathroom so you can have a solid presence when you learn it yourself. I hold your hand. I hold your spouse. I hold your family in my heart for the rest of my days.
I let you lie to me, over and over again, so I can keep you in the hospital long enough to heal your sickness - knowing full well your addictions will swallow you whole when you leave the safe space I'm desperately carving out for you.

Sometimes, I have to let you leave, when it's not time. I have to let you be the grown up in your own life, even though I know that grown up is headed toward an unnecessary death. I tell you I honor your choice, even as I screw up the courage to confront you with the reality of what it means for you.

I'm funny for the you in this room, because that's what makes you feel loved and safe and seen. I'm somber with the you in this room for the same exact reasons. I give a little of me to every single one of you, and your presence and person smudge all over me - changing me forever.

While all this lovely emotional work is happening, I'm using my sharp mind, skilled hands, and years of experience to tend to your body. I'm recognizing when your respirations dip toward death, and giving you medication to pull you back from that brink. Or, I'm noticing when your body is no longer tolerating what we do to keep it living, and teaching your family how to love you in the letting go. I'm watching your vital signs for subtle shifts that will be missed by your physicians (remember, I think about you and know you for hours and days at a time) to recognize when you're sliding toward deathly illness, and put a stop to it.

And, I'm really, really proud, and really, really tired to be this Registered Nurse. Because, all this was yesterday, or days ago, or years ago, and I'm still wearing you. I'm still loving you. I'm still grateful that, even for the abusers and liars, and of course for the helpers and growers, the world got you in it. That for a time, I got to reach deep into your life, and regardless of how you lived it outside the walls of the hospital, I loved you. I honored you, your body, your person.

This is a "living" in a much deeper sense of the word. It's my chosen mode of living - my ethics, my faith, my heartbreak, my hope.
#registerednurse #nursing #healthcare