I'm fifty two minutes into a seventy minute run. Almost three quarters of the way home. My muscles are tired but they keep moving. I have three minutes before I get another sixty second break. The sweat is pouring out of me, running down my legs and into my shoes. I can feel the fluid squish with each stride and can hear it over the music pumping in my ears. Two and a half minutes left. Just keep going. Run with the beat of the drums. The Counting Crowes begin to play just a bit faster and I find the rhythm I was looking for. Two minutes to go. Stop looking at the time and just run with the beat. Squish. Squish. Squish.
When I began to run regularly just over a year ago, I would run for twenty minutes three to four times a week. Those twenty minutes seemed like an eternity then, but they paved the way forward and soon my times increased to thirty and forty minutes per workout. When I began to extend my runs to sixty minutes, I found that I tired so much that the majority of my last fifteen minutes was spent taking frequent thirty second rest breaks.
Then I read some advice in a blog about training for marathons that talked about the benefits of building a sixty second walk period for each mile run into a runner's routine. The theory was that because running was very intense, a brief break from it gave the muscles a chance to recover a bit, allowing the runner to run longer distances and times, while not being as tired at the end of the run. After using this method for a while now, I have found it works very well.
My job as a nurse is not really that different from my workouts. It is intense and consumes much energy, both physical and mental. It has been sixteen years that I have considered emergency medicine my home. It has been a comfortable place for long stretches, and I am good at it, but the years have worn me into a certain groove that occasionally requires some self extrication.
I have taken brief periods away from emergency work to try other venues, but direct patient care is never easy or simple. Working in management was a nice change for a while; the pace was good – a little slower and with regular and predictable hours. But it was filled with its own issues. After just a couple of years behind a desk, I was ready to return to what I did best. I had recharged my batteries and could again face the patient care world with a renewed enthusiasm.
My last break away from patient care was several years ago. It's time for another rest period. I can feel it in me like the sweat in my shoes. It's building and making it hard to continue. I go to work now and feel good for the first hour or so, then it goes to hell. I see things that just make me want to scream: another patient who was too lazy to call their doctor and ask for an appointment; another pregnant teenager who's smoking and is completely oblivious to what she is doing (and will be doing) to her child; more people who try to manipulate us to get pain meds because they have no other way to deal with their realities; another doctor who pissed off a patient that I now have to calm down so they don't leave ready to call their lawyer; another drunk looking to fight with the whole world. Squish. Squish. Squish.
I can't find my rhythm. Unlike when I run, at work the music has stopped and now the fatigue is too much to take. It's time to slow down and let myself heal a bit before I am too damaged to finish – and at my age I have too far to go to quit now. But a rest is just what I need. Less intensity – just for a while – so I can come back and go for another stretch at my natural speed.
My application for a new job is in and I am awaiting the call for an interview. I find myself daydreaming about working Monday through Friday, no nights or weekends and no holidays. In medicine, this is like winning the lottery. It's a twenty four hour a day world we work in, and the “regular” jobs with good hours and every weekend off are few and far between. The job I am applying for is in an office doing diagnostics. Not exactly what I see everyday now. In fact, it's a far cry from the ER. But if I can land this one, just have it for a while, it might just provide that break I need.
Just a few minutes left. Keep going. Find the rhythm. It won't be long now. I can make it. Squish. Squish. Squish.