Sunday, August 31, 2014

the quality of mercy

I sit here writing this post, surrounded by closets that are half cleaned out, with garbage bags strewn throughout most of the house, half filled as I sift through the fabric of my life.  Old bills, photos, and half finished projects that were abandoned because I have trouble concentrating.  File cabinets full of outdated school documents, greeting cards received over the past 30 years or more.  A small stack of letters and cards from a favorite aunt now gone, cards from Christmases and birthdays past with small notes that are about all I have left of my dad.  Cards that made me laugh, from my college graduations, posters from Stevie Wonder's 60th birthday, framed photos of the grandkids that I was waiting to hang until I painted...several years ago.  On and on the list goes.  I am overwhelmed, with the size of the task I have taken on, and also with the emotions I feel as I sift through things from my past.  I reorganize, gritting my teeth and throwing out things I know I kept for a reason, but can't remember why I did as I look at this "stuff".

I'm making some progress, knowing I have tomorrow off to bring some semblance of order to my closets, and thinking about where I am in life right now.  I recently decided to go back to acute care nursing, as a ceritified wound care nurse.  I signed up for a semester class online, my first ever.  It horrified me that the first night of class, when I spent the last hour before orientation started desperately trying to figure out how to sign on (I am NOT a novice with computers or software), that maybe I had bitten off too much, and maybe I should have reconsidered before sinking such a large amount of money into such a big step, maybe I was getting too old to try something new.  I was getting deeper and deeper into a worry state, when I found an article I had saved.

Called "The Quality of Mercy" it details one working day in the life of a couple of nurses and a doctor, including what it feels like to be the patient in the bed.  Told simply, it is a deeply moving article written by Joyce and Richard Wolkomir, with photographs that give a very real feel to the world of nurses and the people in their care.  It was published in the April 1998 issue of Smithsonian Magazine.

I held the article in my hands, not sure if I should throw it away or not.  I had so much stuff to get rid of, and really needed to make a big dent in the cleaning out.  I decided to read it one more time before I tossed it.  I settled on the couch and began to read.  As I read I found myself nodding my head.  With almost 20 years of experience as a nurse, I was no novice, and could relate to one nurse in particular, who had become a nurse "to be of use".  That was when I realized something else was happening.

My fear and worry about the step I had taken back to learning had disappeared.  I became a nurse to help people, to try to make some small difference in their lives.  I realized that I still believed that, and still felt as passionate about nursing as the first day of the first shift I worked as a nurse.  I also realized there was no age limit to working, or to learning.  I could only be held back by my own fears.

I finished the article and put it in my "to be saved" items.  I will read it again someday I am sure.  It reminds me why I became a nurse, helps to bring back my focus.

I got up and moved back to sorting through the stuff of my life.  

life is good...