I was looking at pictures of Joseph this morning. It wasn't a premeditated move; every now and then I just get drawn to him and need to see him again. I am so busy since nursing school started that it doesn't happen often anymore. I can almost give a wry smile, feeling the wave of disbelief hit me anew. Somewhere in me, I still can't believe he is gone. I love his face. I really miss his smile. I'm catching up with a lot of old friends these days and making a lot of new ones, and it is hard to believe none of them, both the old and the new, ever knew him. We are now in our fourth year without him. I do okay until I realize that and it hits me. The permanence of his absence can still dismay me. Some wee little part of my brain I think continues to wish so fervently it was all just a very bad dream.
I got to work with real, live patients for the first time this week. I am almost embarassed at the intense joy this all is giving me. I worry I am missing ten million miles of road I should have seen by letting myself go into these throes of energy and elation. I found it so humbling to bathe people who could not bathe themselves; the look of bliss as they closed their eyes, tilted their heads while I stroked their faces clean with a warm, damp washcloth. Seeing the sweet flush of color come to their aging, fragile skin. I had concerns about being so intimate. I feared (and still fear to be honest) the sights and smells that I will experience. But that place I would go to during Joseph's more horrible moments apparently was not reserved only for my child, which I think some part of me also feared might be the case. It actually surprised me, to have these patients thank me. I felt like thanking them for the dignity and purpose I felt as I did these small tasks. I know I swim in a sea of idealism right now. I am trying hard to give myself permission to just enjoy it, that I am taking down mental pictures to access when it does get unpleasant and hard. Nursing is a very political world and the state of our country's healthcare makes giving the kind of care we want rather difficult. I know my struggles in this profession will be more with those things than with having to take care of sick people. I am starting the process of weeding out in my mind how I want to specialize, where I want to be. I am quite certain I do not want to work with kids. But I was equally as certain I did not want to work with the elderly, and one day of clinical has already made me rethink that notion. I enjoyed the aged so much this week. I never pictured myself laughing with them as much as I did, nor pictured hearing their sharp minds trapped in feeble bodies evaluating me, my education and clothing, the state of their bodies, the level of my skill (low. very low), the world they enjoy (or don't) outside of the hospital walls. I cannot describe how satisfying it was to me. It was an exhausting day, such an intense high.
I am loving also the friendships I am forming through school. I am so awed and inspired by the passion and struggles of my classmates. We are torn down to our most vulnerable selves, every fear we have about relating to other people and about failure put on display before one another. I have to control my urge to hug people. I don't want to be that creepy girl who is always touching someone! But we had our first exams this week and seeing us all pushing through that initial first huge hurdle was just....incredible. Some did well, some did not, but in all of it, there too was so much dignity. I felt so competitive and insecure in the process of trying to get into nursing school. Now, that is fading. I want all of these people with me when we graduate. I want these bonds. I remember a time in my life when I was alone at home with three babies and so freaking lonely - and miserable. Depressed, nearly suicidal. And I had no idea that was what was missing in my life. Relationships. I value it so much now.
So I seem to have gotten a high B on my exam. We had review yesterday where we could get a preliminary look at how we did. That grade may go up a tad as they review the questions and decide whether to throw any out. I am really pleased with that. Nursing exams are HARD. There is more than one correct answer. You have to think out which is the most correct and it can be very minute and complicated. I also passed my first skills exam. No grade on those, just a pass or fail. It has been a super good week.