Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Mid-Week Fatigue

Mid-week fatigue rolls in on this nurse who just finished a 12-hour day plus time at the gym early this morning. I have that boy-my-feet-and-brain-are-tired feeling. Bone tired. This chronic pain thing is draining. Part of my fatigue is the extra weight of pain and discomfort throughout the day, with lost sleep for extra spice.

Tired or not, the patients keep coming, each with their individual needs. So many interactions fill a day. Hours go by, with myriad details flying around my head like so many swarming flies.

Each interaction, each situation, calls for a certain level of awareness and presence. I try to bring to each patient a sense that I am fully there, fully listening, hearing their complaints and responding to them in a way which helps them to feel heard. Beyond hearing, I look for teaching moments, as well as ways in which my actions will benefit that individual in some way, assuage a pain, relieve a worry, mitigate an annoyance. There is so much to do, so many choices to make.

Sometimes the days are like being in an asteroid belt, dodging and sailing around so many obstacles, potential clashes and frictions always on the verge of manifesting themselves. At other times, it feels like a battlefield, and as the telephone calls and faxes and unannounced patients arrive, the support staff yell "incoming!" like infantry in a foxhole. Then again it can sometimes just feel like an office with alot of hubbub, while I coast atop the crest of the wave, few ruffles of my feathers even noticed as I breeze along. Still other days, it is a nauseating roller-coaster, the carnie on an extended break and the ride set on an endless loop. Then we reach for the barf-bag and pass the Dramamine.

No Dramamine today. Rather, a need for deep sleep uninterrupted by pain, muscles crying out, disturbing my needed rest. Pain can raise one's compassion---for one's self and for others. It can be a very human reminder of the mortal corporeal reality in which we are ensconced, the dangerous pull of gravity which wears down our resistance, pulling us to earth like the proverbial ball and chain.

This physical existence, this dragging around a body---it's enough to make one realize just how much work it takes to propel yourself along through life. As healthcare professionals, we try to remedy that weight as it is experienced by our patients, but we cannot carry their burdens for them. No. We use compassion, skillful listening, and our own life's truth to guide us in our guiding of others along these difficult earthly paths. I feel the weight of gravity today. May tomorrow its pull be less noticeable, the strain of physicality assuaged for all who need that sweet relief.
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