I am in a period of intense adjustment now. School is out for the summer; I am so proud of how I did and cannot say enough how good nursing school has been for me. There has been a light of hope and purpose inside me since starting nursing school that I have never known, even long before Joseph's illness. There just is no substitute for the mental wellness that comes with working hard toward a goal and then beginning to see it come to fruition. I still have 18 months to go - three semesters than I am fairly certain will fly by. Time is moving fast now, a fact that always seems to hover on the fringes of my mind. I have so much I want to do in my life and so many things to accomplish, and the shortness of our lives never really had meaning for me until the last few years, when so many of my loved ones have gone on. It actually can cause me a great deal of anxiety when life requires me to pay attention to things that I have not deemed "Important" in the grand scheme of things. It doesn't help that I am three and a half months from turning 40, which is bothering me far more than it should. Talk about something that should not be important! Truthfully though, it is important more in the sense of time marching by than in any sense of being "not young" anymore.
Since school ended, I have been awarded an externship in the cardiac step down unit of a local hospital. I had my first day on Monday. The excitement and anxiety of this has been difficult to describe, and I am constantly in a state of mulling and thinking, perhaps brooding by some definitions. I miss school being in session, where I am completely saturated not only in the clinical and theory side of what I am doing, but by my fellow students, whom I honestly adore, and in the support of staff and textbooks and feedback. Entering this externship was the first step to flying without a net and I have been terrified.
The day I started was in and of itself exhausting, both physically and emotionally. I have never dealt with so much poop in all my life, nor gotten that closely involved in the care of people that needy. Sure, I have done clinicals, but I can say without a doubt that I did more in that 8 hour shift than I did the entire semester in clinicals....and subsequently, learned more, both about how the hospital works, what patients need and perhaps most importantly, about myself. I can safely say I never got that up close and personal with body fluids in clinicals, mostly by chance. I just never had a patient with some of these issues during that time. I have been terrified since contemplating nursing school (we are talking years here) of how I would react when confronted with the more unpleasant (read here: smelly) sides of nursing care. I have a very sensitive nose and a gag reflex that can at times be a bit unfortunate in its virulent timing. The last thing I would want to do is help some poor soul living the ultimate loss of dignity and start gagging over them. In any case, I am proud and somewhat incredulous to report that I actually did very well. My mind just seems to go to a different place when I am providing patient care. I don't process it on the same level as changing the diaper of a child who is not mine or something. I am cognizant of the chance for infection, not only for myself but for other patients on the ward. I am cognizant of the need to restore dignity to this individual as efficiently and matter-of-factly as possible. I actually didn't even notice the smell, which amazed me, as my olfactory senses are quite advanced. If I had a mutant superhero power, I would be called something like The Sniffer. But I did well on Monday and I am looking forward to going back again. I do my first 12 hour shift this coming Monday.
At the end of my shift that first day, I went to my car and collapsed into the front seat. My mind was working 100 miles an hour, processing things I saw and did, cataloguing those moments I wanted to remember, making note of others who did things differently than I, both those I would like to emulate and those I really really hope to never be like. I was so preoccupied, and started up my car with only the thought of wanting to get home, get something to eat (finally) and to tell Joe about my day. There was not a thought of Joseph in my head to be honest; I don't think about him every second anymore (though I definitely do every day), even within this journey that contains so much of him within me. But it appears Joseph was thinking of me, as this just feels like way too much coincidence to be chance. The car started, the radio came on, the announcer's voice went away and right in that moment the opening piano strains of Come Sail Away came on the radio. I dissolved into releasing, wracking sobs and just sat and listened to the song, and felt the courageous presence of my son all around me.
Those who have been reading me since Joseph was sick know how that song came to symbolize him and his journey to our family. It was amazing to hear it come on the radio - it seldom does.
And so I continue on this journey, rather moody and brooding of late. My whole life feels to be in upheaval. I am so used to being so good at what I do and this is a strange and new adventure, retreating back to a place where I need a great deal of instruction and patience from others as I learn. My old life is phasing out; my new life slowly phasing in. I am discontented with school being out and it makes me feel lost and lonely, perhaps even a bit directionless. I am turning 40, which makes me feel as if time is just rushing past, and I need to hurry hurry hurry to accomplish all the meaning I want my life to hold, to get to the good part where I am doing what represents who I am inside every day of my life, when I am doing what makes me to-my-soul happy. I feel like a wraith, haunting the home I live in, waiting for the wind to change back to academia. It is good I got the externship, as I think I would really be having a hard time if I didn't have at least something of that world to keep me busy and growing. So much of all of this brings Joseph into me more fully, has me facing the loss of him and yet continuation of him from new and different angles. Rather than trying to find places to "put him" and still function, I now feel I am more finding ways to hold and carry him.