Tuesday, November 1, 2011

My life is weird.

I know now what it's like to be Sydney Bristow from Alias, leading a double life, switching identities at the drop of a hat. Minus all the killing people and wigs. 

What I'm trying to emphasize is that my life is weird. Like fever dream weird. Sometimes I have to concentrate really hard to make myself believe that my days aren't dreams. Because today, for example, went like this:

-I went to my clinical at the hospital and spent 5 hours in a hospital. The issues at hand during these 5 hours included ventilators, arterial blood gasses, DNR's, people very near death and/or trying very hard to live, making beds, watching people give shots, etc. 

-I left the hospital and spent the next 4 hours driving around Richmond, picking up gift items to borrow for a holiday gift guide in Belle magazine (it comes out in December, I feel like this gift guide is my child at this point, it took over thirty hours of work, it was exhausting, sometimes painful, but in the end one of my proudest achievements-so yeah I gave birth to it). The issues at hand during these 4 hours were: color preference, poodle bookends, getting prices right, finding chalk for a chalkboard wine bottle holder).

These two scenarios are different yes? Juggling both worlds would make one slightly schizophrenic, agreed?

But here's the thing. I LOVE both of these worlds. I always, always want to have this schizophrenic life, with nursing as my day job and writing as my art and passion and creative outlet. But I also am coming to terms with the fact that it makes for a very strange life.

You would think I would need to keep these worlds completely separate. And I do to a degree. Because I really will become Sybil if I can't separate writing a play review from giving someone a dose of insulin.  But I'm also finding that I can use each of these worlds to help me handle the other one better.

Spending time around very sick people has a way of giving you instant perspective. And I try to use that when I'm out and about as a freelance writer. When I'm freaking out about a deadline or about getting copy right, all I need to do is think about my experiences in the hospital to lessen that stress. I want to do well at my job, but thinking about the hospital, I can remember very quickly that, in the big scheme of things, no job is worth losing sleep over. Life is too short and too fragile. We pretend it isn't and purposefully avoid all evidence of that fragility, but you spend 5 minutes in a hospital and that illusion is gone. But knowing that can be a blessing. Because it forces you to keep things in perspective, to not stress out about the little things and to be grateful for the big ones.

 Also today, specifically because I spent 5 hours in a hospital, I had one of the best runs of my life. Running can seem like a pain and a chore and something we force ourselves to do. But my God, when you've seen people who can't move or talk or even breathe on their own, running feels like the most beautiful thing you can possibly do. I may lose this in a few days time, but today I was aware, completely, of what a gift and a privilege it is that I can run. I've never been so acutely aware of my heart beating or my lungs working, of the blood running through my veins and my muscles contracting and flexing, because I had just witnessed what the absence of those things look like. And once they're gone they may be gone for good. And so why in the world shouldn't we just luxuriate in the miracle of our working, functioning, healthy bodies? If you need a reason to run you shouldn't need any other one other than the fact that you  have the capacity to run, that you have two strong legs and a heart and a pair of lungs that will keep up with you no matter how much you push them.  Run to celebrate that fact.

But it's not just spending time in a hospital that helps my life on the outside. It works the other way too.
When I'm in the hospital (and right now it's easy peasy-5 hours every couple of weeks, starting next semester I will be spending more and more of my time there until I probably will just set up camp). But I digress. When I'm in the hospital and especially when I'm in a hospital for long periods of time, I know that I'm going to need my freelance life, and all of the tiny, trivial little details that come with it to keep me strong. There's such a thing as too much perspective. In a hospital I think it's probably very easy to get consumed with the starkness of things, with the monstrous scope of  how big the stakes are. There's no room for triviality when it comes to dealing with sick or injured people. All that matters is doing everything possible to make them better or to at the very least make them more comfortable. 

Which is why I think it's probably going to be incredibly important to stock up on and literally horde all of the nice, happy details that I come across in my freelance work. With that it's all about the small things. And I think I'm going to need that contrast, because part of being alive and healthy is having the luxury of caring about the little things, of caring about them profoundly simply because we can. 

And this is probably all a little rambling and overly deep, but I guess I'm just trying to sort all of this out, because right now it's still hard. Right now I'm still getting used to going from standing by the bed of a person at the end of their life in the morning and writing about jewelry in the afternoon. It's incredibly strange, and it's exhausting.

But I'm getting there. I'm getting to the point where my life A not only exists along side my life B, but helps make it better and more meaningful. Where my life B helps strengthen me and fortify me to deal with the harder parts of life A.

And if I didn't emphasize this enough I encourage you to really think about it, the next time you go for a run or work out or just go for a long walk. It's a gift. Try to hold that thought inside of you. I know I will. 

1 comment:

Christina said...

Liz! You need to write a book, column, memoir, whatever- about nursing! #1- it would be hilarious- because in order to not totally fall apart as a nurse you have to find the humor in what you're doing :) #2- it would be thought provoking, because of the wide range of states in which you see people, their families, etc. as they face illness #3- it would shed light on what nurses really do...so many people have no idea! Anyway- when you write it I will buy it and I know it will be fabulous :)

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