Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Nurse and The Razor's Edge

When she looks at me and smiles, it’s a small victory.
When she moves her bowels, there's much rejoicing.
When a shower is accomplished, there’s a sense of satisfaction.
When her condition remains stable for weeks on end, we relax.
When things become more tenuous, we’re vigilant. 
And when we're vigilant, we can lose sight of ourselves. 
It’s sometimes a tender dance to weigh the good with the bad, the backward movement with the forward momentum, and the feelings that arise when a patient’s condition seems to be going south.
We get attached to outcome, and we hope for the best while preparing for the worst. At times, we’re forced to release our expectations and desires, relinquishing control and allowing the process to unfold. At other times, we lean in and intervene, watching and waiting for the results we desire and attempt to engender.
Amidst the ups and downs, the need remains to assess our own well-being, and our ability to care for ourselves, even as we care for others. While we may succeed or fail with our patients, we can also succeed or fail in meeting our own needs, crucial as they are. 
The road to burnout can be a razor thin line, or it can be like an expressway that we attempt to cross, wearing blinders and ear plugs against the noise. That noise can be the sights and sounds of a weakening sense of self. It can also be the sound of the self as it clamors for rest. The self can also ache for the virtue of selfishness, balancing out the selflessness that keeps us tethered and imprisoned.
We can easily lose ourselves on that zig-zag path across the expressway, or that tightrope walk across the razor’s edge.
But sometimes, there’s a safety net in place: family, friends, time alone, exercise, nature, food that feeds our soul and our body. And if that safety net is in place, the blinders can come off, the ear plugs are discarded, and we listen to our bodies, clear our minds, and return to the fray, refreshed and renewed.
Your safety net can only be constructed by you. 
What are you waiting for?

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