My world stops when shifts collide. Three-in-a-row life vacations, I’ve come to call them. Laundry piles up, dirty dishes in the fridge, the newspapers lay unread by the door. A break from my real life, a thirty-six-hour excuse for domestic procrastination.
I think when I’m working, of course, but it’s a different kind of thought – closed off to the outside world, committed to the hours at the bedside, within the stories of others. My own stories, my voice, becomes devoted to their tales, and I forget what I was thinking of before it all started. Wiped clean by my care.
This week, the break was welcome. I worked the holiday and the weekend following, and for the first time in my entire career, that’s what I chose, not what I was made to do. I still saw fireworks, I still ate American food, I still ran and saw friends in between. But the days indoors, following the pace of hourly-vitals and q6 finger sticks, turns on the clock and rounds at ten, they were comfortable and patterned in a pleasantly distracting way.
Odd, how the atrocities of mechanical ventilation and arterial puncture and wound care and all the tortures we routinely inflict have become rituals to me. Calm, known tasks, provided for the benefit of those in my care, not painful per se, but not fun, either. Just work; work when it eases up a bit, gives a breath, let’s me do things like organize supplies and braid hair and chat.
Now, I’m back home. My patient-vacation is over, there’s construction going on in the apartment above, and those dishes, they call me. I’ll think little of the last three days during this one, and that, in and of itself, makes me smile.