Surprisingly, every teary-eyed step I took down the ramp that day left me feeling just a little more free. By the time I made it to the elevator at the bottom, my tears were actually dry. Miraculously gone. As was the pressure.
Six-and-a-half years of the constant building of unbelievable pressure. And here I was literally walking away from it.
And I don’t mean just pressure from the job itself (which believe me was no joke), it was more an unrelenting tension coming from within my own psyche, perpetually wondering if I’d actually have the strength to pull off my next scheduled shift. And then the next. And the next.
Seriously – this stress was a constant weight on my mind the entire time I worked there. But suddenly it had just evaporated – with a single conversation.
It was then that I walked out of my hospital and towards the parking garage. That’s when I started feeling the weight of finality set in. It’s not really my hospital anymore, now is it?
By the time I got home, I felt numb as I dumped the contents of my locker onto the kitchen island. That mess actually sat there for days – I just needed to look at it a bit before I could put it all away.
I’ve not worked at all since my last shift on March 11th. That was just a few days before COVID-19’s early reality bullied its way into our lives here in Orlando, changing absolutely everything.
Including my ability to perform my job – because of my own personal immune-compromised nonsense.
So thanks to the amazing love and protection offered by the management of my hospital (yes, it’ll always be my hospital), I’d been on sabbatical ever since – safe and resting in the assurance that I would get to go back to the job and people that I love one day.
Just as soon as all this is over.
Because surely that’s coming soon, right?
The beautiful return of our normal?
Well … a few weeks ago as I watched COVID come and go – and then come back again – the light flipped on inside my muddled-up head that God was very clearly telling me something here.
I had always felt strongly that I was supposed to press on with my struggle to be both a bedside nurse and a patient at the same time, until that moment that would one day arrive when God would tell me that it was time to make a change.
Well I can’t imagine Him speaking much more clearly to me than our current reality, can you? COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
So maybe you’re wondering why it’s taken me so long to write about this? Or really write much of anything at all? It’s actually pretty rude of me to drag you along on this bizarre journey of mine, only to suddenly clam up on you like I have, now isn’t it?
Well … to be brutally honest, it’s because I just haven’t felt like opening up about it. Or anything, really.
The few weeks since my final walk out of those hospital doors have not been easy for me. Not at all.
First I was already dealing with some pretty awful joint pains (it was my hips this time) the day I turned in my resignation. Over the days following, this then morphed itself into severe back spasms because I was moving and sitting all screwball-like, in order to compensate for the unrelenting hip pain.
Then, as I stretched, rested, and fought my way through all this, I actually improved for a few days. Until I woke up last week sick with another sucker punch of that ugly, weary, queasy, achiness that sends me to the recliner, holding my head for days on end. Actually, this time it was the couch.
So on top of trying to wrap my mind around the sudden end of my beloved career, all this has been going on, as well. And let me tell you, that level of pain never sends me to a pretty place.
Now I’m finally better from all the physical shenanigans, but I need to confess to you that I’m still a confused mess inside my head.
Sometimes I’m fine with how everything has turned out. Really.
That was the way it had always been planned out.
Other times I’m wracked with guilt because I’m unable to fight this COVID monster alongside my amazing (former) colleagues. I sure do miss you guys, by the way. I’m praying for you!
Then come the times when I’m just so thankful that God removed me from all the constant stress of bedside nursing. Especially when I’m sick in the recliner. Or wherever. I don’t have to lay there worrying anymore about whether I’ll be able to make it through those very difficult shifts.
Thank you for that, Father.
But then also come the moments when I’ll suddenly feel like I’ve been kicked squarely in the chest. I’m absolutely shocked that it’s real. Any of it. This whole COVID thing. What it’s doing to all of us.
And the fact that it has now pretty much removed any hope of me ever working inpatient bedside again.
This is really all I’ve ever wanted to do with my nursing.
Have I ever told you that I really did get kicked in the chest by a patient one day? We had been doing great together all day, but suddenly this sweet dementia patient decided that she didn’t want me listening to her heart rhythm after all.
So, lightning-fast she drew up her legs and planted her feet into my bent-over chest with enough force to send me backwards with my body and head banging the wall behind me. I still remember the shock I felt as I tried to catch my breath from that.
This is the feeling that now hits me occasionally. Just body-slammed from out of nowhere.
So, for the lack of being able to think of a smoother transition point, this is that awkward moment in today’s post where I’m going to clumsily slip in the second chest kick that I referred to in today’s title:
Earlier this week we lost our beloved Cookie. I’m afraid it’s still too raw for me to wax too eloquent of a segue into this.
Almost fourteen years with this funny little dog who drove me absolutely nuts sometimes, but also filled me with so much love and comfort. She fit perfectly into the rhythm of our lives, and right now the permanence of her absence feels pretty unthinkable. And the hole she left behind utterly unfillable.
So basically all this is why I’ve been so quiet lately. I’m working my way through the grief of two beloved parts of my life suddenly being over.
People who know me best understand that I feel things deeply. I always have. I think deeply, love deeply, and I mourn the same. This can be pretty frustrating sometimes as I watch others seemingly glide through the ups and downs of their lives.
But I’ve learned, through my last few very tangled years, that it’s from this same tender place deep down inside of me that God allows me to see beauty where many people don’t.
Or they simply just can’t.
So I’ve grown to be thankful for this complicated part of myself that feels so much, because it helps give me something to say.
We’ve all dealt with some pretty incredible turmoil suddenly crashing into our lives lately, thanks to COVID. Every, single beautiful person reading these words right now has most likely been feeling the same fear, frustration, disappointment, or devastation – in varying degrees.
My point is that we really need to show ourselves and each other a little extra mercy right now.
Can we all just allow ourselves to feel what we feel?
For as long as we need to feel it?
And then can we offer that same grace to our neighbors?
Just a period of time where we can all peacefully figure out just what it is that we’re supposed to do with all these changes and unknowns?
The ones we are all somehow reeling from right now?
And then could we possibly be able to see that all those frustrations, disappointments, and losses that we’re left with right now are not pointless?
That God is using them to draw us to Him?
To force us to notice He’s there?
And that we can lean in tight to His promises?
To trust that He’s with us?
And holds our futures?
Could we possibly allow this to lift us?
To change how we view our personal realities?
To now see with the eyes of hope?
Eyes that don’t focus on the voids and losses, but dwell instead on the light of God that now shines through them?
That’s my prayer today, my beautiful friends. For all of us.
Thanks for growing with me. ❤
“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.” (Psalm 62:5-6)
“But my eyes are fixed on you, O Sovereign Lord; in you I take refuge …. ” (Psalm 141:8)