Saturday, January 19, 2008

A Chapter Closes, a Chapter Opens

As of today, I am no longer employed as a full-time worker. After eleven years of working 9 to 5 as a nurse, I am now a free agent, able to pick and choose when and where I work, on my own terms. With per diem status at four separate agencies, my weeks are mine to orchestrate and conduct. Of course, this means that I must now keep track of a much more complicated personal and professional schedule, and I must hope that I never show up at the wrong workplace on the wrong day. Still, the sense of freedom is incredible, and it will take some time to actually get my head around this new reality.

Of note, one of my greatest losses is the fact that my wife Mary and I will no longer be commuting together every day, and we will no longer be only 200 yards apart during our long workdays, meeting in the park for walks and sitting down for lunch in the midst of our harried days. As director of an inner city senior center just minutes from my former office, we have shared a place in this community for more than a year, and we both feel this palpable loss. I will be visiting weekly, able to actually be more present when I am indeed there, but there is still a loss incurred, and we are both processing its impact.

Yesterday, I was overwhelmed by my colleagues' generosity as a surprise luncheon was held in my honor. According to my wishes, money was collected for a donation to Save Darfur, but my thoughtful colleagues still had to throw in a gift certificate to a local spa and a very personal photo album with a photo of each person accompanied by a personal message. It was a bittersweet day, and some tears were shed (by myself and others). I was, and am, deeply touched by such an outpouring of good will and camaraderie. I will miss my work family deeply. Even though I will help out at the office on a per diem basis from time to time, it will never be the same, and that is clearer and clearer to me even now.

As sad as it has been to say goodbye to so many patients, it is truly a great relief to know that my responsibility for the management of more than eighty individuals' healthcare is over, and I can look forward to new types of therapeutic relationships with patients in varied clinical settings. Change is difficult and inevitable, and I embrace it willingly, even as moments of doubt and grief wash through me like waves.

For better or worse, I have shifts planned for both tomorrow and Monday at my new hospice job, short-circuiting any immediate sense of breathing room. However, there is plenty of time for breathing, and I plan to do a great deal of that each and every day.

For the moment, an inner sigh of relief, and a sense of peace that a chapter has been closed, a new one being written moment by moment, and day by day. I welcome the new, and will certainly cherish the old in a special place in my heart.
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