I suppose I should stop being surprised by the roller coaster of emotions I go through on a daily basis, following the loss of Easton. But I'm constantly amazed at how many conflicting feelings I can have in a 24 hour period. This is especially true since I recently decided to go back to work.
I often wondered how that would work exactly. I mean, how in the hell do you fit grief into a work schedule? Since the weather is changing, and my especially difficult season is coming, I've noticed, once again, that daily life has become more tiresome and painful. I guess I kind of expected that again this year, but this time I've added another layer. I'm working. My job involves caring for others. I still wonder how that's going to work some days. I recently had one of my truly awful days in which breathing was particularly painful. As hard as I tried to push past it and ignore the burning in my chest, I just couldn't do it. It was one of those days where even my skin wasn't enough to hold me together. I felt like one wrong move and I would go everywhere at once. The pain is so intense during moments like these and I have no choice but to succumb to the feelings.
I cried at work. Big, awful, crocodile tears in the break room. I couldn't stop them. The pain just leaked from my eyes as I sat trying to eat lunch. But you can't eat lunch when your body hurts like that. The sight of food is exhausitng. As I sat there, I contemplated what I should do next. Would I be able to pull it together long enough to care for my patients again? Was a 30 minute "break" a sufficient amount of time to release some of this pain? Should I go home "sick"?
That last one crosses my mind a lot actually. I suppose I'm not actually "sick" but I can't think of a time in my life where my body physically hurt more than it does now. I guess I can't call it an illness, but God does it feel like one. One without a medication. One without a cure. I think about those times when I've been ill in the past and how that first day of feeling well again was so amazing. I've wondered what happens to those of us who can't "get better." There is no magic pill. I will be broken until I die. I will hurt with each breath I take.
I don't know what the answers are in those situations. I didn't go home sick that day. Maybe some other day I will. Who knows? I've decided that having all the answers is overrated (and impossible). Instead, I had a conversation with a compassionate co-worker. I put my uneaten lunch back into its bag, and I stood up. My heart still ached in my chest and my lungs still burned at their struggle for a less painful breath, but I put my stethoscope back around my neck and I walked back onto the floor.
It's healing in many ways, this job I do. I see happy families learning life with their newest members. I talk with scared parents as they navigate their new role. I give pain medication for a pain that can actually be relieved. I love being a nurse, and it hurts me. I adore my job and it wears me out. It brings me great pleasure and intense pain. I suppose that's just what life is now. This is how it feels to be broken.
But, in a way I'm grateful for my brokenness. I'm a different nurse because of it, and I've enjoyed discovering myself in my new/old role. It makes me appreciate the good moments so much more. I'm grateful to my patients and coworkers for the brief distractions from my pain. I'm grateful to my body (flawed as it may be) for carrying me through those hellish moments and allowing me to take that next step. And I'm grateful to my son, whose spirit I can feel with such intensity each time I clock in, that it sometimes takes my breath away. So, I guess I'll just keep clocking in. I'll probably keep crying. I'll keep putting one foot in front of the other, and I'll probably continue to be caught off guard by the dips and turns of the roller coaster.
I'm grateful to my co-workers for their compassion and patience. I'm grateful to my husband for his constant support (and the flowers I came home to yesterday "just because I'm proud of you"). And I'm grateful to my patients for allowing this broken mother to care for them.