The Roads to a Map

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/c78/3651011/files/2014/12/img_0119.jpgI have returned to my earliest days of nursing here. Dependent, without direction, full of excuses for staying put. Once – quite recently – a pioneering New Yorker, biker with no fear, total woman. Now, a clinging child.

Those first bedside days, I thought I had forgotten. Alas, here again, this old feeling of clumsiness and uncertainty returns, as I learn this new place. My initial fear of solo activity as a new nurse feels familiar now – must I go in the room alone? Bathe the patient alone? Give a bedpan alone? How strange, to relive these times in the form of urban exploration.

But this fear, I see now, is silly. Back then, I had no understanding or means for expectation. Every patient was a whirlwind, because I had never experienced any patient. Now, here, every road – once I walk it – seems quite like any other city road, the signs simply scrambled in a language not yet my own.

There was a point in my early career, when I finally felt rest, confidence. Things seemed to repeat themselves; a GI bleeder meant IV fluid, blood, pressors, bleeding scan and colonoscopy. After years of whipping around with each unexpected gust, I finally figured out how to muster – and prepare for – the winds that blew.

Those first days of hospital life as a 23-year-old nurse – the ICU, the disease, the weight of responsibility – they were not unlike the streets of this city. Cracked, uneven, with more places to stumble upon than to stride. My blistered toes, reminders of the searing pain of newness.

But blisters eventually turn to callouses, and failure to experience. Now, I see the tools I wish I had known as a baby nurse – the patience to pause, to swallow inquisitive outbursts, to look until I see. Here, too, the same. Also, a bike – tomorrow’s quest.

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