Thursday, March 13, 2014

Happy is As Happy Does

I have this inner feeling that if I cannot be eloquent and profound I have no business writing. Thus here I am, far past my last posting due to a bevy of self doubt atop a sense of there being not enough time in my days. I dislike that. I like to write. So here I am.


Of course, this entry isn't unprompted. I had some rough spots yesterday that are truly so rare anymore. I find myself assuming that I have this "loss of Joseph" thing under control and that the rocky early days when everything on the planet sideswiped me (What? I still have to buy milk? But my son is dead....how can I need milk and how can anyone keep selling it and how in the world can I shop for it without feeling guilty about all of that?) are long past me now. Most of the time it is true, they are. It makes it more notable when suddenly...they aren't.


Yesterday I took my turn being outside of my comfort zone by being floated to another unit at the hospital. This happens from time to time, when one unit (theoretically) is overstaffed and another understaffed. The excess nurses are "floated" to the floor in need. In general nurses tend to dislike being floated. There's the whole "I don't know where anything is" thing and the "who is going to laugh with me, I don't know anyone" thing and for some of us (me) the whole "This is not how I pictured my day when I woke up this morning" thing. It can be 12 hours of hell. Fortunately my day was nowhere near that bad. The floor I was floated to is similar to my home floor and I have been floated there a few times before and am starting to get to know the "regulars" a bit. I am learning too that if I am not mousy and uncommunicative neither are the others around me. Go figure. Still though, I was out of my comfort zone.


During my lunch (half) hour, I was browsing on Facebook, an activity that I admit probably takes up more of my time than it should (gee, when would I ever have time to write? hmmmm). I came across a post from a Mommy friend, someone who had a child the same age as Joseph. They went to school together from grade school on. In fact, she knew Joseph very well from scouts and was instrumental in a great deal of the help we received from our community when Joseph became ill. Yesterday she wrote a very sweet entry on her son, who's birthday was yesterday. His 21st birthday. She wrote a little blurb that gave insight into their relationship and her affection for this boy. 21 years old.


It isn't unlike driving down the road and going through an intersection without looking both ways and finding out the hard way there was another car coming that you didn't even see. The impact is shocking, breathtaking, almost numbing for a moment. I put my phone down and cleared my lunch mess up, spoke to a few people, went about my business. And then the realization of the impact hit me. There just was this flood, this drippy, embarrassing, suffocating sense of being trapped. Where could I go? What could I do? I thankfully knew where the bathroom was on the floated floor and I fled there, locked the door, sank against it and felt the hot tears spill over. My throat closed up, that tight sense of "not now Sheri, good God, you don't have TIME for this now", swallowing hard. Someone knocked on the door, I straightened my voice to hopefully sound normal, gave my "just a minute!" call and swiped and swiped and swiped at my face. It was the worst of the worst. At least on my own floor most of the nurses who have been there with me are aware I lost a child to cancer and could sympathize if I had to show or tell a moment like this. But here, on the floor I had floated to, nobody knew my story at all and I wasn't particularly wanting to tell it. I guard it more carefully now, reveal it more discreetly if at all. It is a precious part of me. Nobody has a right to it. Private. The private-est. I felt like my skirt had blown up and I was trying to put it back into place against a stiff and invasive wind.


I got myself together, tucked the tears away, the heartache, the selfishness that grief so easily turns into and got back to work. It wasn't a bad day overall. I gave myself permission on the drive home to wallow in it for a minute, but the radio would not cooperate. It seemed like every station was playing something boppy and happy and completely inappropriate to wallowing ("This is gonna be the best day of my lie-I-ife! My lie-I-I-I I-Iyiyi life!). I definitely had the sense that Joseph was trying to strong arm me past it as I drove through the setting sun to the refuge that is my husband and home.


I told Joe about it and sat with him for a bit in sympathetic silence, let him hold me, let the tears fall now unrestrained, slow and rolling. I told him about how I try to imagine what Joseph would look like now...I superimpose the maturing bone structure of Nick's face onto the memory of Joseph's "brink of puberty" softness. I try to see the Adams apple, the soft, shy smile on the face of a man instead of a boy, the familiar voice now deepened and mellowed. I try to imagine what our relationship would be like now, whether we'd laugh and tease, whether he'd now be living so far away I would hardly see him. Once again I face that gossamer veil.... hazy, dreamlike, fleeting, beyond which are only shadows of Might-Have-Been. Gently, reverently I let myself turn away. I no longer try to hold it. Time has taught me I cannot and the crazed inner sense of loss and anger serves nobody, least of all me, least of all his memory, least of all my work as a nurse. Frantic has, at long last, left me. I accept the sorrow. It is part of me now, but thankfully not all of me. This acceptance has its own price. I slept so hard last night.


Sometimes I miss the clarity the burning heat of my fury gave me the first four years after he died, that roaring, defiant anger against illness and premature death that propelled me into school and drove me toward the life I have now built. Finding purpose seems hard and juggling, with ideas and goals tumbling over and around me but never fully into my palm. I achieved what I set out to do and am looking hard for the next thing to come. I have tried to go to new jobs and to transfer specialties and have come very close more than once, but somehow things happen, situations fall apart or take a strange turn and I wind up continuing on where I have been planted. The relief I feel at not being catapulted into the unknown wars against the desire to figure out if I am REALLY happy or just think I am happy, to get the answer of whether or not there is more happy to be had outside of my current environment. Just typing that out tells me what a foolish pursuit it is. If I have another purpose coming it will be revealed to me. But happy is as happy does. There is the same amount of happy pretty much anywhere I go. I know this deep inside. I think I have just kind of forgotten it. Maybe I am being given a respite from my insane inner drive and respite is the meaning right now. Maybe I am just too silly to see that.





4 comments:

Karen Gerstenberger said...

You are a talented and beautiful writer, in addition to being (I feel intuitively) an efficient and compassionate nurse. I love it when you share whatever is on your mind. I haven't forgotten what you carry within you, and what you have had to let go. It informs who you are, how you see what you see and how you do what you do. But you are right: it is not ALL of you. I am happy for you, that you have a full life, with the love of your boys, and a good man beside you.
xoxo

Sandy said...

Sheri, I would like to thank you for writing and to let you know how much it means to me to read your words. My son Tom died in 2009 from malignant melanoma. Since I found your blog back in those pain strewn days your words and experiences have echoed in my own life and it has comforted me to read your blog.
Your words are true Sheri, don't doubt them
Sandy

Sandy said...

Sheri, I would like to thank you for writing and to let you know how much it means to me to read your words. My son Tom died in 2009 from malignant melanoma. Since I found your blog back in those pain strewn days your words and experiences have echoed in my own life and it has comforted me to read your blog.
Your words are true Sheri, don't doubt them
Sandy

Sandy said...

Hey Sheri, thank you for you words. I find they echo in my own life having lost my darling boy Tom in July 2009. Never doubt the power of your words or the comfort they give.
Thank you for your honesty and courage. It is very comforting, in a pain strewn life, to know that somebody really does know how it feels. Much love xx