Sunday, June 21, 2009

Keep Pushing

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.

1 comment:

  1. The only ER nurse I’ve known killed herself. I can’t imagine how hard it would be if it were a routine part of your life to see teenagers mangled in joy rides. I know she was deeply affected by such an incident. She had come to me and told me about one just before she died. And I said nothing. I just didn’t know how to respond. What do you say to someone to motivate them to persevere in the face of such awful hopelessness?
    Buddhists claim that the human condition is one of suffering – though perhaps I shouldn’t speak for Buddhists. I am not one. Find the middle path. Know who you are and who you want to be. Find the spirituality, the faith, the knowledge, to know that you are what you are. And that you are what you want to be. Without that spirituality you are adrift exactly like those you describe and are treating. Though they be adrift, you can be anchored in a sea of tranquility.
    So, how do you know who you want to be? I’ve always wrestled with that myself. Ask yourself, what are the things that made me happy? What have I accomplished? Go through the different things that you’ve done - schools, different jobs. What stands out? Write them down. Then analyze them. What do they have in common? What skills are necessary? What character attributes? Then find something to do that emphasizes those skills & attributes. Simple, eh? I have the idea that it should be nursing. But that’s the only side of you I’ve seen. Keep pushing.
    Free Tibet