Thursday, August 30, 2012

Cliff Jumping

A new friend and I were walking to the shuttle stop after the end of our first day of class yesterday (Was it only yesterday?  I swear, it feels like it was a week ago.).  Our collective nerves were crackling like live wires as we tried to wrap our heads around, well, everything.  "I feel like I'm standing on a cliff," I burst out.  "And, it's like, I climbed up here on purpose, I struggled up the freaking mountain, I did everything I possibly could to get out to the very top of this cliff, with the idea being that I was going to jump off, and now I'm here, and I'm so scared and I don't want to jump!  I desperately do not want to jump."
"Yes, exactly!" my new friend agreed, and we elaborated.
"And even though you know, you know that you'll be okay in the water down below once you jump, you know that you'll figure out how to swim and you know that climbing up to the cliff was the right choice, right now, it feels like the last place you want to be."
"But you can't go back."

I want to be in nursing school.  I really, really do.  But when I think about how for the next three years, there will always be homework to do, and how for the rest of my life, I will be taking people's lives in my hands and doing the best I can to care for them and I will not do everything right, and people will hurt, and people will die, and there is nothing I can do about it - when I think about that, oh you have no idea how badly I want to turn around and scamper back down the mountain to my nanny jobs and my no homework and my few responsibilities.

The leap from the cliff has already begun.  Classes started yesterday, and along with every single thing I learn, comes the more terrifying reality of how incredibly little I know.  Yes, I now know what the risks of IV feeding are, and why we are sleepy after we eat, and what the difference is between the pharmacokinetics and the pharmacodynamics of a drug.  But I sure as shit don't know what to say to a patient who has just been given six months to live.  I don't know how to comfort a mother whose child has just been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis.  I don't know how to feed someone who has leprosy and gangrene without gagging, I don't know how to take care of a dying baby without crying, and I don't know how to come home when faced with all of the ways I can't help my patients and get up again the next day still committed to help in the ways that I can.

I will walk into the hospital next week for my first clinical shift.
I will be assigned a patient.
I will walk into his room, introduce myself, and tell him I need to take his vitals.

And with that, the leap will be complete.
Yes, the water is rushing to meet me, but I'm going to try to enjoy the flight.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Nurses Treat People

Orientation lasted all of this past week, and by Wednesday late afternoon, we were fading fast.  Put 82 nervous, exhausted, hyper-caffeinated and tremendously awkward graduate school students in a windowless lecture room for three days straight, eight hours a day, and by the third day, it will all start to fall apart.  By the time we had been herded into room 118 one more time for this, our last presentation of the day, nobody much cared who it was we were listening to.  Turned out it was the chief of police, which meant we all sat up marginally straighter and propped our eyelids open with a little more effort.  The chief of the New Haven police department spoke, and then so did the chief of Yale Police, and then we watched a slideshow about how to use the emergency call boxes, and then we heard a speech about not walking and texting (yes, I'm serious), and then it was almost 5 PM and we all wanted to cry.  My butt was numb.  I was starving.  The room had started to quiver as people furtively began gathering their things as it became clear that the presentation was coming to an end.  The chief of New Haven police stood up one more time, a burly and intimidating man to say the least.

"I want to say one more thing, before we go."  The shuffling got more furtive, and a few whispers were shushed.
"I have to tell you all, we do at least thirty presentations like this at the beginning of each academic year, and I mean it when I say this to you - this, coming here to speak to you all, is my absolute favorite."

The shuffling stopped.  Silence fell.

"I've been a cop for more than thirty years, and there are two kinds of people that I respect more than anybody else: my fellow officers, and nurses.  I've known a lot of nurses.  Hell, most of the cops I know are married to nurses.  We go into these fields for the same reason - we want to help people and keep them safe.  There will be people that don't appreciate what you do, just like there are people that don't appreciate what cops do for them.  Don't ever think that I - or any of my fellow officers - are one of them.  What you all, as nurses do for people is beyond anything I could imagine.  I talk to doctors, to surgeons, to the incoming medical school students every fall - let me tell you, there is no one, no one like you all.  Don't you ever forget what a special job you all have.  You have the respect of me, and every single one of my fellow officers.  We all know that the saying is as true as they come: doctors may treat patients, but nurses - nurses treat people.  Thank you for your service.  We are all so grateful."

The silence rang long after he finished, and there wasn't a dry eye in the house.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Our usually peaceful household has been well, a lot less peaceful over the last few weeks.  The unrest is separate from the stress of moving and unpacking (which is largely over), as well as  the seemingly small yet strangely exhausting tasks of buying silverware, lightbulbs, groceries, car insurance, etc, all in a new place.  It also has nothing to do with the potential for adjustment that the Nanny and I might have anticipated from transitioning from living in the same building in separate apartments to now living in the same apartment, in bedrooms connected by a Jill-and-Jill bathroom (I figure it's only a Jack-and-Jill if there's a Jack involved.).  No, this unrest, this disruption to the calm, this excitement, if you will, comes from one creature, and one creature only.  Tucker.

Photoshop skillz by Nanny

Tucker, as it turns out, is having a midlife crisis.

I can think of no other explanation.  Though he seems a bit young for such a major life event (he's four and a half), I can no more deny his emotional turmoil than I could deny the truth of global warming (which, depending on your political leanings might not be all that demonstrative of a comparison, but I digress).

He meows at all hours of the night, his dreams apparently disrupted by his own emotional duress.  My bleary explanations to him that there is food in his bowl and that his litter boxes are clean are met with stony glares.  Obviously, I don't get it.  I go back to bed, obviously indifferent to his pain.

During the day, despite frequent exercise chasing his toys, he'll tear around corners in the house after his sister, Lucy.  How dare I infantilize him with my pathetic offering of yarn toys, anyway.  Only after Lucy has exhausted herself running away from him will he occasionally settle down for a one-eye-open nap.

He graces us with his regal presence anytime we go into the bathroom.  Don't try to tiptoe so that he won't hear you.  That's insulting.  Are we less than thrilled to have a furry, purring companion during all bathroom activities?  That's absurd.  Soak up the love while it is given.  Turn on the faucet too, in a small, yet steady stream.  Make sure it's not dripping.  Leave it on for as long as he needs it.  Don't pretend you have something more important to do.

He retires to rest again.  After all, nighttime will be here soon, and with it, a new chorus of mournful meows.

Perhaps this would all be solved if I could afford to buy Tucker a red convertible and some expensive sunglasses.  Doesn't every hardworking man deserve some fun?  A chance to cut loose?  To leave his responsibilities behind?

Tucker, your six-dollars-a-bag organic dental treats are going to have to do for now.  Sorry.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Are We Home Yet?

Home is a difficult concept, yes?  It is charged.  Mostly with expectations.

Expectations for who we are when we are there, as well as expectations for what home should be like, always and unchanging.  Unrealistic, of course, because everything changes.

The sky changes, every day, and we hardly notice.  But enter the house whose very consistency and constancy you cling to, and a new chair, or a different rug can make your whole world feel off-kilter.

I have a tattoo that says, "I am home."  Like a lot of tattoos, this one says something that I claim to believe but really, probably is more like something that I want to believe.

I want to feel at home, wherever I am.  In my body, and in the world at large.  Often, I don't.  Usually, I feel like the world is one big whirling party that I'm too scared to join.  Or, if I do join in, I become some caricature of myself that mirrors and compensates and bows to every idea or influence or person and I long to jump back out, to catch my breath, to stand at the window and watch some more.

Home is a lot of things.  It's the big things, like a structure, with doors and keys and a mortgage or a rent payment.  And it's the little things, like a clock on the wall, a plant in the kitchen, and a cat on the bed.  It's the people you invite in.  It's the food you cook, the arguments you have, the tears you cry.  Mostly, it's the time that it takes for all those things to happen.  Just like a relationship doesn't blossom overnight, a house is not a home without some settling of the dust.

Patience is not one of my virtues.  Suffice to say, I would never get a tattoo that claims I am so.  But few things change with the rapidity and spectacularity of a sunset.  If they did, would we appreciate them?  Would we even notice?

I'll leave the porch light on.  We'll see who stops by.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Moving: A Helpful Guide

Dear anyone planning on moving, ever:

When preparing to move yourself, your friend, and your two crazy cats from one city to another, please refer to the following list for some examples of probable occurrences that will make all of your previous planning efforts look pitiful and elementary by comparison:
1.  It will be 90 degrees while you are packing (and unpacking) and there will be no air conditioning.  You will also have inevitably already packed the fan(s).
2.  Your moving truck company will call you the day before your move to confirm your order.  The confirmation will be incorrect, stating both the wrong time and the wrong location for truck pickup.
3.  No one at said moving company will give a flying Fig Newton that you have a strict schedule to adhere to, given that you have hired moving help in both cities.
4.  The night before your move, you will suddenly realize that you neglected to set up gas OR electricity in the new house.  Oh, but don't worry - you scheduled someone to install the wireless internet a week ago.
5.  Also, the night before your move - you will succumb to a raging yeast infection that requires going to the pharmacy for Monistat.
6.  You will be unpleasantly surprised by the enormity of the truck you rented, upon seeing it for the first time.
7.  You will develop a sudden and unwavering faith in all divine beings, in the hope that one or all of them will take pity on you and keep you safe while you maneuver the twenty-six feet long, eleven feet tall moving truck.
8.  You will give yourself (and your fish passenger) loud, inspiring motivational speeches during the most terrifying three hour drive of your life.  These speeches will occasionally be interrupted by outbursts of cursing so filthy that they would make your mother blush.  This usually happens when someone cuts you off, honks their horn at you, or otherwise raises your blood pressure even further, but occasionally these outbursts will be more self-directed, e.g., "WHY DO I OWN SO MUCH bleep-ING SHIT??? SO MUCH THAT IT FILLS THIS INFERNAL, bleep bleep bleeeeeep TRUCK??!!"
9.  Eventually, you will arrive.
10.  You will sigh a huge sigh of relief.  You will dance.  You will even sing a little.
11.  You will watch, exhausted, while your cats explore their new domain, and you will hope to God that this was the right choice.
12.  You will watch, exhausted, while all of your stuff is moved into the house.
13.  You will give these moving men your last dollar bills.  Literally.
14.  You will rally, unwillingly, and take the moving truck back and NEVER, EVER DRIVE ONE AGAIN.
15.  You will go back.  You will tear up as you turn your key in the lock and step over the threshold.
16.  You will survey the boxes, pledge to be ruthless in your sorting as you unpack, and get ready for bed.
17.  You will be home.