Monday, December 11, 2017

hashtag, nurselife

I've just got off a seven day stretch. Silence at this time of day is strange. It is stark, particularly through the filtered daylight of cloudy, snowing skies. It is so very, very welcome.

I had an emergency massage last week. I threw my back out by sitting on the floor for too long. (Mrs X needed her toenails cut, and I was not going to make her wait a month to see the podiatrist.) When I got up I knew it wasn't just stiffness. I tried to stretch out at home with heat and yoga but this was not going to quit so I booked in at the spa with the first available therapist after work the next day.

Normally the LMTs don't make recommendations and they don't talk much, which I like. But this gal-- let's call her a woman, she was older than me-- after I briefed her on my occupation and issue, spelled a few things out for me. The compassionate take-away was: "'No' is a complete sentence and take the time for yourself, you are so worth it."

How could I forget? The business of caretaking is demanding and generally thankless. Mom would say a job well done is its own reward and now that I am middle aged I totally agree. So as I run down my to-do list at work which grows exponentially by how many staff we are short, I am focused on continuity and compliance. Get it all done by shift change, you know? Still, in the niche of geriatrics, there is a large component of care that is intangible but essential: spiritual care. That is, the patient might not be oriented to date, time or person, but they are damn sure they know how they feel. The primary emotion for 99% of my charges is fear.

So as I bust off the to-do list, I am addressing fear. "What are all these pills for? Are you poisoning me? Where's my Dad? My son? My dog? I want to go home. When am I getting out of here? I HAVE TO GO TO THE BATHROOM AND I CAN'T TELL YOU SO I'M YELLING AND HITTING YOU INSTEAD." All the soothing, redirecting, distracting and validating takes from my reserves and if I am not taking care of myself, I am not going to have anything to give. It is the difference between knowing if getting down on the floor is going to hurt my back or not, and whether or not I am going to cry openly or privately the next time Mrs. Z recounts her experiences in WW2 Europe as if they happened yesterday.

I do cry for what my patients have lost. Alzheimer's and dementia are devastating, tragic conditions. I very often think about how I can best help. Days like today, when I am silent and catching up on things at home, gathering myself, tending to my life, I think about what I might lose should I get that way. This is not idle morbidity, it is constructive appreciation for what I have.

I was cleaning Saturday morning and found the last Christmas card that Mom gave me. Quite unexpectedly I burst into tears. I touched for a moment the enormity of our relationship and the depth of her love for me (and all her kids). Later on I thought about loss being the tax on loving, and transferred these thoughts to my present relationships. I am still struck that I am only just beginning life and that I don't want to lose anything at all. It is humbling and I feel grateful for the time I have.

Knowing that I have to work all the holidays was making me feel resentful. "No balance, I need time for my life, blah, blah, blah..." Until I remembered what Mom said once about working holidays: "There's nobody else to do it. I can't just leave them." She was right, of course. She always sided with grace. Even if I don't have a choice about when I get to have a Christmas, I can choose grace, and that is good self-care. I'm worth it, as it goes.