I am having the time of my life. Every day I leave school with deep, rich waves of contentment moving through my spirit, like a river of chocolate. I am not sure I have ever experienced anything this satisfying before. It is a crazy world and our learning is just beginning, but the sense of purpose and belonging as I begin to get to know my classmates, my instructors and myself is intense. I am making new friends, learning new things every day and wake up each morning around 5:30 all on my own, ready to review what I had been working on the day before. I am being consumed and it is a sweet surrender.
That said, it is the most work I have ever had to do in my life. There is an inner anxiety just beneath my surface at all times. We have learned just enough to know how much we do NOT know. All this talk of Evidence-Based Nursing, The Nursing Process, critical thinking skills, laws and ethics and drugs and ethnic diversity and spiritual needs of the patient, liabilities - they pretty much toss us into the water and then reassure us that we may be drowning right now but sooner or later we'll be able to swim. The instructors are fabulous; stern and strong, caring and focused and most of all, passionate about nursing and seeming to love our green idealism, utilizing it to spur us onward into this journey. I have heard of nursing schools where that is not the case and I am so thankful to have made it into this one, which is the number one rated nursing school in Texas.
Today in class we went over all the paperwork involved in clinical rotations. The first hour of class was actually spent telling our 'stories'.. 48 students who all have different reasons for getting to that moment in time. I do not think I have ever told the story of my dream in public or in front of any kind of an audience. Obviously those closest to me know, one on one, about the day I said good-bye to my son and about the promise I made to him, to stop running from those things I wanted for my life, but that I avoided due to overwhelming fear and uncertainty. I rose to the moment, spoke of my son, of his care, of my internal battles and challenges and the culmination of a lifetime of avoidance and fear that in the face of his own courage and dignity could no longer be offered safe harbor. I was sweating as if I wore no deoderant and shaking like I did the day we held his funeral. I am not one to tear up in front of others, but my hands were clutched to keep them still, yet betrayed by my wavering voice that spilled out in tears. The entire class wept with me. Part of me feels bad for that; part of me is cleansed. So many stories were told, all of them valid, poignant and inspirational. These already are friendships that I take so much solace and satisfaction from. The passion and dedication of my classmates fuels my own, so that even as I stumble on with the intensity of my fear, I am held steady. We are all afraid. I am learning my fear is not unique.
Anyone who knows me knows I am not an overly religious person, particulary since Alexander's brain tumor and Joseph's illness and subsequent death. I have struggled with the concept of a God who allows such things to happen. As a young woman I prayed often and fervently; I had an active relationship with God and with Christ. As a mature woman who has seen so much suffering, my ability to pray in any traditional sense has disappeared. But time has given me tentative healing; I still cannot pray as I used to nor have conversations with God. Honestly I do not understand so much and it makes me feel mistrustful. It is interesting to me then that through this experience, I find myself often thinking of my ideals, my goals and what I want to accomplish, and finding quiet moments of solemn reflection that are undeniably spiritual in nature; reflections that speak of a desire to embody that which I wish to convey, which can only be contemplated as a mirror of some kind of godliness. I do not know if I have to believe to portray this. I don't NOT believe. But my faith has been shaken on a core level and I cannot also say that I do. I have often wondered if at the core it is some kind of childishness of the spirit - "You didn't give me what I wanted so I'm not gonna believe in you anymore God. You hear me?!" If so, I guess I have to believe God as the ultimate parent would "get" that on some level. No matter what it is, the Amy Grant songs of my youth that gave me a kind of rapturous desire to be holy no longer speak to my soul with any kind of pertinent meaning. It is different. I could not tell anyone now they need to believe or be saved. My only hope, as I become who I believe now I have been meant to be, is to convey some sense of peace, and in that peace, some sense of God present in the dignity of the soul.
When Joseph was very sick, a particularly devout mother of another sick child gave me an album as a gift from a group called Casting Crowns. As it turned out, it was a Christian album, and I found it to be almost a betrayal at the time. I hated it. But I put it in the other day and listened - and I find myself listening still, particularly to a song called "And Now My Lifesong Sings". I can hear it from so many angles. From Joseph, who will live on in the spirit of my efforts. From Joseph who is now in heaven and beyond what I can comprehend. From myself to the patients I hopefully will serve one day after I am educated enough to be of use. Another, called "Love Them Like Jesus" speaks to me. I don't think I have to be a bible thumper to recognize the person that Jesus was and to emulate him. I am not black like Maya Angelou, but I certainly recognize and respect her wisdom and strength. I don't know how I feel about God or about Jesus as The Son of God, but I know that goodness is a universal language and comfort a universal need.
My days are full. Positive. Energized. Grateful. I am glad I got to tell my peers about my child. About my ordeal. About myself. I am glad I got to hear about theirs. My vulnerability opened a wave of it from others and we all left drained, hugging, cleansed, bonded. Even the instructors cried.