Note: I did do a conference call. It’s not all Jenga and mac and cheese.
I knew by last Wednesday I wouldn’t make it to the march. My six-year-old had had a fever for 3 days, I was calling out of work and trying to get him to the doctor, and my nursing work schedule included non-negotiable 12 hour shifts on Friday and Sunday.
I was desperately sad when I woke up on Saturday and, like every normal human, pulled my phone from under my pillow and started scrolling twitter. All these beautiful women I love and admire, my friends! Together on The National Mall with their children. Arms linked, posters cutting, experiencing history’s counterpoint to Friday’s stiff and depressing presidential inauguration. And here I was in my PJs. A bad mom for not bringing my son to the momentous even, a bad woman for skipping the rising up of the sisterhood.
But wait, forget that guilt. You marched for me. I’m a single parent of a young child. I struggle with being a mom without a partner or adequate child support, a professional with no job flexibility to accommodate my role as parent, and due to the unaffordable nature of childcare lean on the support of my own mother to help raise my child. Also, I’m a cancer survivor and the ACA keeps me covered with health insurance and free from the fear of medical bankruptcy. Last, I am fortunate in this time of health professional shortages to work with a diversity of talented professionals from all over the world. I worry that through fear mongering or bad policy I will lose these irreplaceable nurse, tech, and doctor colleagues caring for our sick and elderly.
So to everyone who marched–I couldn’t be there on Saturday to show my support. I am forever grateful to you for marching.
For a while now I’ve been scribbling notes and spending long hours before sleep and short minutes before getting out of bed figuring on how I will tell the story of my absence. Where I’ve been (literal and figurative).
I’m not consuming much fiction these days, but can slide through clinical tales like a hot knife through butter. So to warm me up a bit, and to remind you that I still think and breathe, I’ll share a passage from the late Oliver Sacks’ book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (from the introduction, Losses):
…But it must be said from the outset that a disease is never a mere loss or excess–that there is always a reaction, on the part of the affected organism or individual, to restore, to replace, to compensate for and to preserve its identity, however strange the means may be: and to study or influence these means, no less than the primary insult to the nervous system, is an essential part of our role as physicians.
This is a perfect prologue. You know I had cancer. And that is the least interesting part of the story I wish to tell. The compensating, the strange and destructive means by which I strive and fail to preserve my identity is where the drama lies. And that, my friends, was completely overlooked by both me (RN) and all of my care providers.
Where is Oliver Sacks when you need him? In print I suppose. Thank god.
Writing and doctoring/nursing are twin professions in my mind. It makes perfect sense that the two things I love most in this world are literature and medicine.
What a Sisyphean effort–both pursuits–spending all hours of the day and night fighting against entropy, suffering, and for your efforts being sometimes baffled at moments of transcendence. Making sense of this big mess of human stuff.
Poets, doctors, nurses, practice in the space between what we know as fact and the mystery of pretty much everything else. It’s a magical space, and for many people I think it must be where god lives. It’s where I keep cellular respiration and Leaves of Grass.