“How are you doing?”
She is the critical incident counsellor for nurses working in northern communities.
“I have a pile of about six critical occurrence reports from your clinic dating back the last two weeks. How are you handling things?”
I laugh, because that’s what I’ve learned to do.
“I think I’m doing okay”, I tell her.
“The other day the shampoo bottle fell off the ledge while I was showing and I almost screamed. A little sob of terror caught in my throat. So I’m a little jumpy”, I explain.
We talk some more. About the last 20 months and all that that holds. About the tragedy of the last week and the heaviness of everything. She knows. She’s been there too.
“But I’m leaving in two weeks”, I say.
“Ah, so the light is started to glow at the end of the tunnel”, she says quietly.
Yes, in many ways it is. And yet in some ways I see all the light, the light of this experience fading as I most toward the beginning of the next.
Not an hour goes by that I don’t think about how these are my last two weeks. And how before I know it I will be miles away from the clinic instead of that short walk through the birches. If I actually let it settle as reality I feel my heart squeeze, squeeze and I have to catch my breath.
I know I need to leave. I am looking forward to beginning a new season. I am burnt out and jumpy and tired. I have a lot of processing and sleeping and debriefing to do.
Yet this clinic has become my world. And I almost forget what it was like to not have my life revolve around the health of these 40 homes tucked around the bay. Slate Falls has become home to me, in many ways, but the clinic has become more than that–it has become my life.
I think back to what knew when I first moved up that March day, almost 20 months ago, and what I know now, and marvel.
I had no idea how all-consuming my job would become. I still had visions of hours spend in the bush or learning Ojibway or hanging out at duck camp. And I brought up scrapbooking material. I kid you not. I laugh now.
I hadn’t yet experienced how much just a phone ringing can send your whole body into panic.
I didn’t know how beautiful a small kind gesture, like a bag of chips or a cup of coffee could mean, on busy days. Or how satisfying it would be to care for people and know you made a difference.
I didn’t know that sometimes people don’t appreciate you, even when you do your best and you just need to grow a solid combination of an iron backbone and oiled feathers.
I didn’t know how important it was to sit totally still and listen to people. Not offer advice, or try to fix anything, or worry that you are not being caring enough. Just sit. Totally still. And listen.
I didn’t know that I would become quiet.
I never would have guessed that I would become good at administration and the thousands of details that come with keeping a clinic functioning smoothly, driven by the necessity of being the only long term nurse. Me? The disorganized, absent minded RPN who hates paperwork?
I didn’t know there was something called Compassion Fatigue.
I didn’t know what it felt like to feel sleep deprived for days on end.
I didn’t know that a community of 150 people and one small gravel road could open my world up so wide.
I didn’t know how much I would come to love this community and these people and my job, even though all three were very, very different than all my expectations.
Yes, the light is at the end of the tunnel , and I am thankful.
But at the same time, I’m going to miss the light as well. The light of Slate Falls, and the light of all my friends and patients and coworkers , the hard florescent light of the emerge room at 3:00 am, and the light of the cold fall sun, splashed out over the lake.
I am praying for you as you make changes in the next few weeks.
I know exactly how it feels, I have been there and done that.
Keep Jesus the center of it all, and you will come through with a much better view of love and serving!
I was wondering this morning if I would see any writing on your blog soon, as your time at Slate Falls was coming toward its end. I hope you experience times of refreshing once this season of your life is over.
My experience is very different from yours, but I could help sense odd parallels (on slant, as it were) as I read your description. The thought that came to me is how, after I came out of my emotional and physical taxing season it felt so easy (at first) being on the other side. But in the following months, and years, I found the experience came back in ways and with difficulties I did not expect.
I am confident God will see you through whatever is ahead, but if you experience *does* parallel mine in any way, you may have quite a ride the other side of Slate Falls, where memories and thoughts echo loud, and emotions play tricky games.
Being God’s vessel of grace is not without its costs, as the Apostle Paul could well attest. But that doesn’t make it any less worth it, as I am sure you well know.
“Just sit. Totally still. And listen.”
Oh, that is simply profound. I enjoyed the outpouring you put here. Bless you in this journey, gentle sis
Amy Gillett said:
Thank you for sharing your heart thoughts. I was very blessed. As I begin on my own journey of becoming a nurse, I wonder if some day I will have some of the same feelings or opportunities as you did. God is with you…wherever you go. May He be your steadfast joy no matter what happens in your life.
p.s. I don’t know if you remember who I am, but we met when you and your family did a presentation at our church in New Dayton, AB. I remember you talking about going into nurses training or had you started already? Also- a minor point of interest- I went to EBI with Justin. He is a crazy warrior for the kingdom of Christ (and just generally crazy too) as I’m sure you well know and I wish you the richest of marriages. Congrats on your engagement!!
Thank you for all you hard work! I spent about a month in critical care. I saw how hard nurses work and the long hours they stayed awake just to make sure I had my every need taken care of. All with a smile on there face, love in their eyes and a strangth I can not put into words. Thank you! You are a world changer! – Annie