For those who don’t know, I’ve been a Registered Nurse for almost 19 years, with 15 years being mostly spent in Surgical ICU (along with some ER and Labor & Delivery), and the last 4 years spent in forced “retirement” due to a pretty devastating hip injury that required surgery, rehab, Worker’s Comp, lawyers, pain and suffering, and ultimately meant the demise of my hard-earned career AND I snagged myself a walking cane in the process. Needless to say, I have really mixed feelings about nursing as a career! While it afforded me the flexible time and financial ability needed to care for my children, it has also taken a toll on my mental and physical health that can’t aptly be described in one blog post. While I do miss the income, the comraderie of staff, the good deeds done, the patients helped and saved – I must admit that my brain’s “mental anguish” tank is completely full to the point of spilling over, and I am not sorry that I can no longer work as an RN. Since beginning to walk a newer path on my life’s journey through the Craft, my overbearing emotions toward my RN experiences have become a significant part of a private and continuous daily practice which includes the letting go of things that do not serve me. However, I was recently shaken up quite voraciously, to the point that I now wonder if I am really letting go of anything at all.
My youngest daughter came to me a few days ago and confided that she was thinking of changing her major to nursing. My stomach dropped and I actually became nauseated, and I really didn’t know what to say to her, other than, “It’s good money and your schedule will be flexible.” Ugh, do I suck or what? I want to be supportive, I do. I really do. But I want to be a good mom too, and being such requires that I make sure she knows what she’s in for, doesn’t it? But how do I say the words that need to be said to accomplish that task? How do I share the memories that I’ve kept to myself for so long that my insides feel half-rotted sometimes? How do I tell her that this thing she’s reaching for, this thing that will bring financial stability to her and her children, is also the thing that changed me to the point that I no longer recognize myself sometimes?
How do I convey how it felt to listen to a mother pray and scream outside of an ER door while her pregnant daughter was getting CPR and an emergency c-section? To walk past that woman just a little while later, with eyes averted and mouth closed while she begged for info, because it had to be the doctor that tells her that her daughter and grandson are both dead? How do I talk about what it’s like to have access to all the pain medication in the world yet be unable to administer it to a writhing in agony, begging for mercy, dying patient because the doctor is a moron and the proper dosage wasn’t ordered, and then do I say that if I gave that medication anyway so that the patient could die in relative comfort, it could also technically mean that I murdered someone and I could go to jail? Do I share the rage of that particular juxtapose? How do I share how much it hurt my heart to watch a young father push his 10 month old daughter up and down the hall in her stroller while he talked to a funeral home to make arrangements for his brain-dead young wife who keeled over from an aneurysm while they were on vacation? How do I share my bone-shaking outrage at the family who purposely extended the life of a suffering man for months so that they could continue to get his Social Security check? The beaten-to-death wife? The raped toddlers? The crack moms and their crack babies? The beautiful and reckless teenagers with devastated mothers begging God for a miracle? How do I adequately explain the sights, the smells, the purulent body fluids, the bone-revealing bedsores, the fucked up administration who insisted that the nurses could handle an overload of patients and do housekeeping at the same time? How do I share the fury I felt at being slapped, spit upon, stabbed with needles, poked, shoved, pushed, punched, tits and ass pinched, held up against a wall while rough fingers attempted to rip through the crotch of my pants? How do I talk about the hundreds of men who thought it was okay to unnecessarily show me their penis or who asked me to wash their balls because it was my “job” to do so, and who threatened to report me if I didn’t? How do I talk about the post-partum women with bleeding vaginas who would toss their pads onto the bathroom floor and expect that I would pick them up because it was my “job” to do so, and who threatened to report me if I didn’t? Do I force her to sit for hours while I go on and on and on with hundreds of other memories that never go away, that haunt my dreams, that crop up out of the blue and cause tears to fall, and that sometimes – often – make me afraid to live fully?
Then, after that, do I also say that one feels closest to God/dess when assisting a slick babe’s descent into our world? Do I speak of the heart’s flutter at that first intake of breath, the first cry, the mother’s joy? Do I say that one can see the smoky outline of welcome Death as the last breaths are taken into a worn old body? Do I try to describe the energy in the room as heat leaves skin, eyes glaze, soul departs hand in hand with those who wait? Do I share the pride felt at another life saved, another broken person comforted, a coworker supported, a job well done? How do I explain that those are the beautiful threads that keep me bound up and prevent me from cracking wide open and walking into the abyss of rage and insanity? Do I tell her that I think I need to snip and unbind, crack open, and walk right in so that maybe I can be whole? Do I tell her how much that scares the fuck out of me?
OR, do I say nothing at all and let her live her own life and experience it all as she’s meant to do?
For someone who loves to talk as much as I do, it’s hard to verbalize these memories without sounding jaded and bitter, to say it so that it doesn’t squash her dream to do something that requires large amounts of intelligence, compassion, and a skin so thick that a sword can’t cut through. I don’t know how to put supportive voice to heartbroken, soul-shattered, joyous word – or if I even should say anything at all – but what I do know is that my shining girl absolutely has what it takes to do a job that is so wrought with danger that I am scared for her. Is is wrong of me to want her to choose something else? I don’t know, and because she’s my baby, I don’t care. If she does choose it, however, then i will smile and support and I will pray to the Sweet Goddess that she will cope with it all in a much better manner than her mother.