Saturday, April 30, 2011

Dear Joseph

Tonight is your prom night. I can almost see you in my mind's eye, tall, slim, handsome, that shy smile that never ever left you. But yet I just can't. I can't see you really, because my mind can only conjecture how puberty would have changed your bone structure, your cheekbones, collarbones, the knobs of your knees and elbows, the spread of your shoulders, the taper of your hips. I have no idea what you would look like as a young man other than most likely lean and tall.

I miss tonight. I miss seeing you in your tux. I miss insisting to your dad that I get to accompany you to select it. I miss helping you order the corsage for your date and I miss even the pang of worry and nostalgia that I would feel as we take pictures and see you off on your way.

But as I thought over all of this tonight, I realized to a degree an overwhelming emotion I would be having would be......grief. Anticipatory grief. Because in another six weeks you would be graduating and a few months after that.....college. I'd be thinking about your childhood, all the things we have been through together, how you have changed my life. I'd be starting to miss you, deeply and painfully.

So in a sense, I already have some of what I would have, should have, could have had tonight. All those last emotions I already have faced, felt and continue to feel. You have moved past where I can see, and the only thing keeping me from dissolving tonight is the absolute, without a doubt certainty that wherever you are, you are most definitely not missing the fact that you would have, could have, should have been going to prom tonight. For some reason that is very clear to me. You aren't grieving it. And it has helped me grieve it less.

So wherever you are tonight, I hope there is glitter and magic and hope for the future. It is what I would have wanted for you tonight no matter what. I love you. I am missing you, every second, every day.

Love,
Mom

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Turning Corners

This semester, for whatever reason, has been hard on my self esteem and psychological well being. It has seemed almost as if the design has been to humble me into knowing exactly how much I do NOT know, and perhaps that is the case. There is a saying that there are few things more dangerous than a brand new healthcare provider who is overly confident and full of themselves. Well, I can assure you, no danger of that going on here.

On top of the mistakes, the mental confusion, the inability to think as fast on my feet as I would like to be able to do is just an overwhelming load of busywork. The paperwork in nursing school is endless, as are the reading assignments, and the exams are designed to be confusing, difficult and distracting. It takes everything you have and frequently requires a degree of mental and physical stamina that you don't have. I have been suffering from a great deal of low self esteem and self doubt through most of this semester. But I feel like I have turned a bit of a corner this week.

My clinicals this past Tuesday assigned me to NICU. This is not an area of nursing I have ever had any real interest in. It is super specialized and not terribly diverse, meaning if I were to go into it, chances are it is all I would ever do. Added to that is the honest self admission that I am not the baby freak that so many people are. There are tons and tons of people who ONLY want to work with babies or children. Now, I like holding a baby as much as the next person. My heart is just as melted by a sweet little face and tiny fingers and toes as the next. I just didn't see that as my population of choice for doing care. Frankly, it is a little bit scary, the teensy tiny dosages given to these kids who weigh so little. The chance for an error being absolutely deadly is huge. In any case, I went into my NICU day curious, ready to learn, a little bit intimidated and kind of with a sense of it being a day of "bonus" learning, as even if I wanted to do NICU, so does everyone else on the planet. New grad opportunities for nurses are few and far between as it is. Add in a high desire position and the chances would be next to nothing. (Yes, you heard me right - new grad nurses cannot find work. There IS no nursing shortage and all of us nurses, new and experienced, wish that myth would die. I'll cover that in another blog entry sometime.)

In any case, to make a long story short, I had a very good day. My patient was very sick, my mentor nurse was an insanely good teacher, and suddenly so many things that have been hammered at me in class and in clinicals clicked. I do not know that it changes my career plans or makes me want to be a NICU nurse per se, but it was pretty amazing that a patient this complicated is what made things suddenly make sense that didn't really before. When doing my care map for my patient, the data clustering suddenly came easily and pointed out my priority problems and actions like a big red flag. I got my paperwork done in record time and felt like I got things "right" that I might have missed before. I could have made that care map ten miles long, there was so much information to use. Fortunately we are limited to three priority problems to solve. But it just has amazed me and filled me with greater inner peace for this experience in which I didn't have a big emotional investment should be the one that made logical sense and took me past that large, growing self doubt and into a new world in which competency was actually visible on the distant horizon. I swear I heard a bell ring. Ding ding ding, she's getting it!

So I have gone to a peaceful place inside. I have one job offer in a cardiac unit, but have identified at least two other floors I would be willing to entertain working on - the Clinical Decision Unit and NICU. I get to go to L&D next week, which has interested me for a long time. It is nice to feel the world wide open with intriguing things to entertain. I may not get what I want directly out of school - few do these days - but I am glad to see I am not limited in my interest level to just one area of nursing. I have a renewed sense of trust inside that I am called to this career for a reason and that I will land where I am supposed to go for the next step in what I am supposed to do. And given all the internal chaos I have been feeling all semester, that feels pretty relieving.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Reconciliation

So I was having a kind of self induced misery kind of day today. The weather outside is about as perfect as it comes - sunny, about 76 degrees, light wind blowing - and because I am the queen of procrastinating (despite the fact that I am doing so much apparently this is a lifelong habit I will have to battle because, you know, that Sheri chick learns almost everything the hard way. Over and over again), I got to spend my day indoors writing a paper that is due on Tuesday, the day after a major exam. So I wasn't happy about having procrastinated and I wasn't happy about writing a paper when I wanted to be outside tending my bushes and flowers and I wasn't happy that everything feels so hard right now. But I got the paper done and ignored my sloppy house and followed Joe's loving orders to get outside and do a little self treatment of my vitamin D deficiency in the hammock. THAT was restoration at its finest. Too bad I could not spend all day doing that.

After my shower, I came inside and noticed a reference to someone declining an invitation I too had recieved because her child is attending prom tonight. Uh oh. I began to go down that seductive pathway and before I knew it, I was on the high school website and there in front of me was not only the date of prom (not tonight), but the date of graduation (June 7th), the date that caps and gowns and announcements were delivered (March 25th) etc. And bang, that familiar pressure in my chest started up. And for whatever reason, the term "reconciliation" came into my head as I looked over pictures of Joseph, aching inside, trying so hard to imagine what he would look like now.

Reconciliation. A term from my childhood referring to a sacrament in the Catholic faith. I always thought of it as meaning "forgiveness" or "to make right again". But something in me took it to the dictionary to find the pure definition. Webster says it means "To restore to harmony". Harmony. What a holistic word that is. It implies resonance, logic, mathematical balance. As a musical person, it says to me there is a place for the disonant note, that there is meaning behind a major and minor pairing and that all things balance one another out to elicit emotion through rhythm and pitch.

In that light, I can find less distress in my tearful moments, my urges to examine and find the days that would be so meaningful if Joseph were still here. Lord, how I miss him. I am such a better person now than I was when he was alive. I wish I had been THIS version of me then, this kind of healthy, this kind of balanced. I would love to know him and parent him as Sheri2011 instead of Sheri version 1.0.

I read a story recently from a hospice nurse from the book I mentioned the other day. In it a dying gentleman who had lost a son and in the story he kept seeing the son sitting in a chair in the corner of the room, telling him "Come on Dad, it is time to go!" What an awesome thought that is.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

You Just Haven't Earned It Yet Baby

Yesterday was a good day. Well. For me. My clinical instructor had a family emergency that took her out of town unexpectedly, which made us unable to go to the hospital for clinical rotation. I was disappointed to an extent - it was to be my first day in L&D. Instead, we did virtual patients on a computer program up at school. Not nearly as fulfilling, let me tell you. But the up sides were an extra hour of sleep and about three hours less of clinicals, leaving more time to squeeze in the bajillion other things on my mind right now.

Despite the gift of an easier day though I got pretty melancholy last night. I have this huge mental pile of things that need to be done, not the least of which is clean up the den where I do most of my studying. It looks like a bomb went off, as does, frankly, the rest of my house. It feels right now like everything around me is a partially completed project. Pile of clean laundry waiting to be folded here, floor needing mopped for longer than I care to admit over there, clutter clutter everywhere and pollen making a fine yellow mist-like coating over pretty much everything. It annoys me. I dreamed and dreamed of having a warm, comfortable home and I don't have the time to put into it that I would like to right now. On top of that stuff is all the things the boys have going on and all the end-of-semester projects that are getting wrapped up at school. It feels like a giant weight pressing down on me and, I confess, last night I just kind of sat down underneath it and felt the weight and opened the door to the Poor Me's, who have been knocking and knocking for weeks.

I can't say I feel much better this morning, but Joe was sweet to me last night. I made myself a nice, rich cream of mushroom soup from scratch, bought a book about a hospice nurse's experiences with death and dying and Heaven, bought a cheap bath soak for the jacuzzi tub. I took my bath and read my book and cried a little bit. I wore my most comfy PJs and indulged in the little shot of Grand Marnier that Joe poured for me to sip on and fell asleep in his arms. I didn't wake up until the cat discovered another cat encroaching on the front yard and commenced to communicating her displeasure by hurling herself against the window screen while making the Sounds of Satan that only cats who are threatened can make. So as far as feel-sorry-for-myself evenings go it was a pretty good one. Now the dawn is here and I muse again over the wry knowledge that all my moping about did nothing to resolve the issues that are pressing on me. They just kind of waited patiently in the corner, looking down their collective noses with superiorirty and asking "Are you finished now? Can we get to work?".

So in that vein, I acknowledge that today is a gift. Normally I would spend the day mapping out care of my patients from yesterday, racing to satisfy all the documentation requirements that will maximize my grade and get it up to the nursing office time stamper a few minutes before the 3 o'clock deadline. Without having gone to the hospital yesterday, I don't have to do that. I have today to focus on a major project due next Tuesday and a major exam next Monday. No feeling sorry for myself allowed - no time. I will put away the daydreams of a trip to Cancun or Hawaii, the silent yearning for a dark movie theater and giant bucket of popcorn in front of a feel-good flick that has no hidden moral message other than "Once in a while it all turns out okay". I will put my nose back to the grindstone and remember I just haven't earned it yet, but that I am and I will.

One thing is for sure. Nursing school is not for wimps. Or at least not for those who can't hide their wimpiness most of the time.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Awake, Alone, Not Lonely

Once again I am here before the break of dawn, utilizing these free moments to look back over my life and forward to where I am headed. Purpose drives everything right now and sometimes it feels like the only thing I can recall. I am proud of what I have done since Joseph died, proud of what I am doing, where I am going and why. There is a "hurry hurry hurry" mantra lately, as the road has been twisting and difficult and, to be honest, I just don't feel like working as hard as it is requiring of me right now. But that is okay. It is okay to get tired. I rest a little and go forward in spurts. Stopping is not an option, not because I am brow-beaten, soul-whipped or even particularly strong, but more because this is something I want. Working at the hospital is a joy. It seems like no matter how awful my mood when I go in, I leave a better person and spiritually invigorated. They say that is how you know you are doing what you are supposed to be doing - it feeds you. It makes me contemplate doing other things that cause me anxiety, such as mission work of some sort and continuing on to a more advanced degree. The plan for advancing my degree has already been put in motion. I have been offered an internship on my floor at the hospital for after graduation and the tuition benefits for continuing education are quite good. I am in the habit now of being a student and suspect given my age that stopping and trying to start again would be more difficult than simply continuing onward from the start. I put pressure on myself to get it all done by 2015. Not sure that will really happen. Those are the last years I have while the boys are young and living at home. It is all a trade off. Determining where the importance lies requires self reflection and spiritual contemplation - both things I am better at than I used to be but still not good at on the whole. I am practicing.

In the vein of putting the world to rights and having things as they should be, Joe and I have visited a lawyer and gotten our official wills set into place. The signing was yesterday. This fills me with peace and a quiet sense of satisfaction. My life was full of death for a few years there - losing my Grandpa Reichmuth, then Dad, then Joseph, then Grandpa Huettner, then Grandma Huettner, all within a five year time period, has been quite a force in my life, and having seen how careful, legally binding plans for the inevitable affects those left behind has made this a source of anxiety and need inside me. Finally this burning fear has been put to rest. Joe and the boys will be taken care of if I pass away. I will be taken care of if Joe passes away. All those important documents like Power of Attorney and Medical Directive have been signed and notorized and now all that is left to do is to put the letters for little things and instructions in with the legal documents and find a safe, permanent place to store them. To be sure, it is sobering to see the words "Last Will and Testament of Sheri Marie Sellars" on a document, but satisfying. I have done well enough to have things to take care of and people who need me to do that. That means something to me. It is a kind of thanks to them for being so central in my life. A last deed already set in place. Even in my death I will care for you.