Wednesday, April 10, 2013

"What are my faults?"

I woke up this morning and there was a decapitated buddha head on the fencepost in my backyard. I was a little stunned at first, the shock of the image, and then had a little moment in which I wasn't sure whether to be disturbed - did someone try to break into the yard? - or to go with my gut reaction, which was to laugh. I laughed. It turned out that I knew the culprit - a prank I presumed was launched after finding our little backyard buddha broken up by last night's storm, and spontaneously finding a new habitat for the remains. Laughing little buddha head, mounted on a post. It was perfectly, morbidly hilarious. I'm still not sure what this means. The image stuck with me most of the day, that of a smiling, jubilant enlightened one, laughing in the face of a most gruesome demise. I'm still not sure what it means.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

I listened to a show on NPR today that focused on happiness. One person's view on happiness was that people should turn their attention toward what is to come, toward the possibility and/or attainment of future goals. Another person's perspective involved the acceptance of regret in the grand scheme of one's life. And yet another focused on the importance of lowering one's expectations in order to attain satisfaction with what is realistically possible. All have good points. I'm still not sure which one I'm willing to whole-heartedly subscribe to. I do know this: 1) Complete reliance in regard to happiness upon one's future goals precludes satisfaction in the present moment. And all we really have, really, is the present moment. 2) The acceptance of regret, the acknowledgment of one's faults, is imperative in order to realistically set future goals, i.e., one cannot realistically envision nor achieve happiness without appreciation, respect, and acknowledgment of past failures. 3) It is not necessary to lower one's expectations to the point of bare existence. It is only necessary that we rid ourselves of extravagant options enough so that we are satisfied with the choices we make, so that we do not punish ourselves for not making an infinite number of alternative choices. We have to learn to accept that whatever party we are at is a good enough party; that we are not forgoing a "better" party, with better conversation/booze/food/etc. We have to learn to accept where we are and, at least momentarily, forget about where we think we should be, either now or in the future. We have to accept our failures as part of our growth as human beings, and learn to forgive failures in others. Carry on, then.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Fold ( i.e., getting into, adjusting to, rearranging)

Note from the Editor: Due to changes in formatting within the parameters of the hosting blog site, spacial/paragraphical spacing is not realized. My apologies for the stream-of-consciousness view of said post. Love, SJT. How fitting is it that I should suddenly get the urge to write on the blog again when it has been exactly one year since I last posted, and only a few posts since my one-year anniversary in the ER. In that respect.... Dear ER, You have whittled every last nerve of my being to a sliver. You have challenged the threads of my faith in humanity, at times to the point of snapping completely. For lack of a better description, you shit where you eat. I feed you, and yet you beg for sandwiches, when I paid $30K to have the right to no longer depend upon feeding people sandwiches for a living. If the gloves are to be truly off...? You demand not only the intelligence, skill, and education of myself and my colleagues, you exude righteousness, egocentricity, presumption, pride. You demand that we cure what has long been a problem. You insist upon quick fixes, when our specialty only demands such in extreme circumstances. And by the way, "dental pain" is not an "extreme circumstance." And yet. You remind me that faith is a human condition, one not dependent necessarily upon a particular system of belief, or on a subjective measurement of (emotional/physical) pain, and that for all of my faults, I am really fucking good at assessing people on this level. You emphasize my strengths, every time a patient comes in with a panic attack, when a child arrives with a broken arm, when a family member wants to know what's going on with their mother/brother/aunt/grandmother who can't speak for themselves, when someone needs an ultrasound-guided IV and I nail it without hesitation, within minutes. You force me to recognize my weaknesses, my limitations, every time I double-check with a doctor before administering the anticipated treatment, when I turn to my fellow nurses and techs and ask them to complete things I simply cannot do, for lack of whatever is necessary, be it time, patience, or skill. You comfort me when I am right, and correct me when I am wrong. Still... In my last post to you, I said we weren't quite Sid and Nancy. This time, more than a year later, I tell you that we are. It's not just you, ER. It's me. There's been a lot going on behind the scenes, growing pains, whatnot. Madi's eleven years old now. She is barely entering middle school, and yet I feel as though I'm already living with a teenager. Concurrently, I am in the process of purchasing my first home with someone whose patience for my financial and emotional ineptitude is clearly under duress. So, what do I do. I remind myself that every coat of paint on the bathroom wall is a step toward improvement, toward definition of our lives together, toward stability and progress. I take deep breaths on my way into your environment, with your beeps and your pages and continual demands for whatever it is The Public needs. I give you every fucking thing I have within the scope of my practice, my scientific, medical, experiential, and emotional intelligence, so that I may help you move along in your life whilst moving forward in my own. One thing I ask of my life outside of you: Please allow me the space to readjust, to take off one hat before adorning the next. To forgive my ineptitude in this regard. To weather the storm of my balancing act while I calculate further steps. Stay with me, ER, and I'll stay with you. Just try to be kinder to my family. They put up with a lot of shit on your behalf. Whether you know it or not. Sincerely, Steph

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Between the Worlds

Well, this is a new record. Three months without posting. It's no wonder my brain feels as though it's about to explode.

In synopsis, I broke my arm. Got it fixed. Had the cast removed. Am recuperating well. Note to self: Polyurethane wheels - old school - next time trying on roller skates. Duly noted.

After spending two months in the "fast track" section of the ER, it is altogether stimulating, infuriating, stressful, educational, sad, gross, inspirational, and illuminating to be back in the main department. In other words: situation normal. I once wrote a poem that included the phrase "snap like sternum." After a recent 16-hour shift, which included two virtually dead people within an hour, I have a new understanding of that phrase. 'Nough said.

I've moved into a home which is coming along much more slowly than I'd like, but is proving to be every ounce of the comfort I've been looking for. It's a labor of love, but it's so amazing to simply weed the garden, light a fire, sit in the hammock on the back deck and watch the stars move across the sky. Simple pleasures are everything these days.

I lost a friend several days ago, one who had fought sarcoidosis (a lung disease which essentially turns the lungs into fibrotic masses, not conducive to the exchange of oxygen, which is, as it turns out, pretty goddamn important). As the case would be, lung transplants aren't quite the efficient procedure for one whose lungs have turned into calcified masses. So it seems the bitch of attempting to survive becomes the impetus for a quick death. Congratulations! You've got new lungs. Bad news? Everything else got fucked in the process. Still reeling from the irony of it all, refusing to delete his phone number from my list of contacts on my cell phone. Still stubbornly hoping to see his name on the greaseboard at work, hoping he'll come in with a mild exacerbation of breathlessness, all the while knowing it's over and he's gone. Still having a hard time accepting that, accepting the fact that I will never again bump into him in the main lobby when he's exiting physical therapy at the same time I'm coming in to work. He may have been okay with it, but I'm finding I'm not. At least, not as okay with it as I thought I was.

My daughter is entering 5th grade this year. New school building, lockers, boy crushes and all. I'm both excited for her transition into preteen-dom and horrified at the prospect of having her hate me within the year. It's all I can do just to show her as often as possible how much I love her. I fear I am doomed to repeat my past as an angst-ridden teenager, only now through the actions, emotions, and struggles of my little beanie burrito. History repeats itself. I pray to a god I don't believe in that her transition into adulthood won't be as tumultuous as mine was.

And I'm going to be a stepmother soon. This is completely foreign territory.

Everything is on the line, and yet there's a sense of peace in knowing that I'm heading into the future with someone who is unequivocally THERE. Which is another foreign concept.

Is it possible that things will turn out okay?

Is it possible that life and love have taught me enough to bear the burdens this transition implies? Without driving him crazy?

These are questions I deal with every day, questions every human being deals with every day. There really is not much difference between me and the homeless woman who shows up in the ER looking for help and a safe place to sleep.

The proof is in the pudding, and although it curdles from time to time, I find myself in a place that is safe, secure, loving, passionate, and warm.

How did this happen.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Date Night

"If you could just sign your name here and provide an address... We'll be sending thank you cards for your attendance."

No problem! Here ya go!

"That'll be $150, please."

I look over at my date, whose eyebrows are now rising against the raised ceiling of the venue we've entered.

I look back at the door-woman. She looks at my date, and then back at me.

"How did you hear of this show?"

Um.... Not to sound like a douchebag, but.... my boyfriend's in the band.

She waves us in after accepting my donation (150 bucks is a bit steep for 3 songs for my ten year old, but I'm not going in without paying something, either)...

Do you want a glass of water? Some milk?


Do you wanna go up front?

".....Yeah..... 'My boyfriend's in the band'...." she says with a snicker. We laugh. She gets it. We laugh at the realization, that a line has been crossed, that she's suddenly privy to conversation that had previously been ignored, or at best, misunderstood. We're playing on the same level, suddenly. I explain: I wasn't trying to take advantage, just trying not to pay 150 bucks for a show we'd only catch 20 minutes of. She rolls her eyes. I ask, "Well, do *you* have 150 bucks?" Her eyes cast downward. "Alright, then. Let's go in."

So we do. And she actually *likes* it. She thinks the lead singer is funny, and laughs when she recognizes the guitarist, wig and all. He plays a brief solo. "Is that him?" Yup. She smiles, curious, and dare I say... proud.

They take a break, and he shows her around backstage.

"I'm on stage! Can they see me?"

Yes, Madi. You can see them; they can see you.

She giggles.

We leave early, stopping at the Palomino for some take-out dinner on the way home. I used to work there. She used to come with me to work for a few hours at the beginning of every shift, waiting for her dad to pick her up. And would stand beneath the bar, which stood a full six inches above her head, and ask me to ask Bill, the bartender, for some cherries. And he'd give her four toothpicks full, with oranges and everything. The menu's listing of tater tots used to read "tater nuts" in honor of what she called them when she was only two years old.

And there we were. And she asked for quarters to play pool while our food was cooking, and she asked me to play with her, and I did. And she used the cue and everything. We talked of math, the geometry involved in shooting pool, and I thought, "This is what I want you to learn at this age. The connection between boring school stuff and how it might serve you in everyday life."

And when we came home, she told me she wasn't sure if she believed in God. "Sometimes my dad and I kind of make jokes..." and she ducked her head, as if waiting for the invisible lightning bolt to strike her down.

And all I can think is... Who is this beautiful, intelligent, thoughtful, compassionate girl, and how many days will fly by so fast before she's standing before me, arguing politics and defending herself against the questions I pose regarding her latest relationship.

Answer? My daughter. And not enough.

Hold tight to what you've got, Milwaukee. It changes so fast.

And, Madi? I'm more proud of you than you could ever imagine.