My new job as a visiting nurse allows me to have a fairly short day, for the most part. Working from my car allows me to complete a lot of my computer work from home, so I’m rarely out later than 2:30 or so. It’s a pretty awesome benefit of the job.
Yesterday, we had a snow storm. My kids were at their dad’s, and I had no plans on a Friday (the new “single me” is kind of boring), so I volunteered to pick up a few extra patients (the new “single me” isn’t rich, either…so overtime is not a bad thing). I didn’t get home till 5.
I was assigned a woman in her mid 30s. This young patient, on paper, seemed like one I wouldn’t be spending too much time with. I arrived and started looking through the orders, took her vital signs and discussed what we were going to do…basically my routine for everyone. As we were chatting, we discussed our younger years in high school. We talked about the types of kids we hung out with back then, and the different things we used to do. She said she hung out with older kids, “cool kids” and of course, ended up getting in trouble with them. I told her I did the same. She said, “all those kids that I thought weren’t cool are all now successful, married and settled down, and I’m here living with my parents”. As I performed my nursing tasks, she started to open up a bit, filling me in on her history of drug and alcohol abuse, along with her subsequent overdose. This girl was lucky to be alive.
Now, 10 years ago, the old me would have been completely turned off by this story. I would have looked down upon her for making those “choices”. I would have made the small talk as short as possible and high-tailed it out of there as soon as I was done. I would have judged her. That was when I was sleeping through life. Thank God, I’m wide awake now. “You’re only 32 years old. You have plenty of time to be successful and settle down, if you want to”, I said to her, matter of fact-like, as I went about taking care of her. She just looked at me. I can’t say what she was thinking, but I felt like maybe she didn’t get that type of conversation too much from people, other than maybe her mom. I could feel her energy, and it was positive. This was not an evil, negative, bad person. This was a sweet, positive, good person who got caught up in the wrong circle of life. I’m sure she did make some “bad choices”, which led to other things that weren’t choices. She could have been me, or I could have been her, had only the slightest thing gone differently along the road. I went on. “I was in my 30s when I became a nurse. Before that, I spent my life as a waitress”. She piped in, “I’m a waitress, too!” I explained how I never thought I would ever have a real “career”, but decided to slowly chip away at it, one class at a time. I talked about the women in my nursing class who were in their 60s and just starting out. I mentioned all the places around our area where she could sign up for classes, and the different things she could try for a career. I tried to speak in a manner that was believable, which really wasn’t that hard, because I was telling the truth. I did believe it wasn’t too late for her to accomplish something in life…I just needed her to believe it.
As I finished up, she complimented my necklace. It’s the throat Chakra symbol. I explained my reasoning for wearing it… speaking my truth. That led to a conversation about yoga and meditation, which led to a conversation about writing in journals and going to therapy. I’m not supposed to talk about my personal life with patients, but I broke the rules yesterday. Nothing too intimate, but I did let her know that therapy was the best thing I ever did for myself. We both talked about “stuffing things down” inside that box you keep in your soul. I’m sure we stuffed different things down there, but it doesn’t matter. When the box is full, it weighs the same, no matter what type of trauma you put in it. I talked about “the process”, and how focusing on that, instead of the end result, is what’s bringing me inner peace. She’s started therapy for the first time, and after hearing about my passion for writing as a part of healing, is eager to start a journal. I suggested she try out some guided meditations and gave her the name of a nearby yoga studio, for when she’s physically healed. Before you knew it, over an hour had gone by. I could have talked to her all day. Why can’t supporting and empowering women be a career? I’d love that job…
Yesterday ended up being a long day. I went to bed tired and slept in late. This morning, as I thought of that last shift, I did not think of the 6 other patients I saw. I thought of her. A young woman in recovery. I didn’t pity her. I didn’t look down on her. I didn’t judge her decisions. I wasn’t disgusted by her. I believed in her… do you think that was enough?