So last night I was blessed to have attended a lovely gathering of valuable and grace-filled souls.
It’s the best way I can describe the colleagues and friends I have gathered along my journey as a nurse. Women who are strong, smart (some, brilliant), wickedly funny, caring, and insightful. Some live alone; some are married; some with partners; some have children; (some even have grandchildren!) I have known some of them for decades, others for only a few years. some are retired and others are still slogging through the arduous shifts in the recovery room, operating room and various supportive departments that we all depend upon to “move forward and get ‘er done”.
Some of our conversation was about how stressful retirement can actually be! Even though it is something we all SAY we are happy to reach!
A friend texted me this morning and asked me to try and write out the things I said in our conversation together as she found them to be “right on” and they struck a chord with her. It made me revisit my thoughts and I thought maybe it was worth a journal entry.
So. I wrote on Facebook: “It is MY philosophy/belief that nurses often DEFINE themselves by their work. Over the years we often push partners, children, sleep, food, (and especially OURselves) into the background as we immerse our heart, hands and brains completely into our passion/gift/art of helping strangers. It is WHO WE ARE. Why would it not be expected that for some, having to “re-define” all of that would be such a challenge? (Even our own nursing college refuses to let us keep our “RN” status after our names if we are not part of the “work force”!)
So I think it is important for RNs to support, honour, and help each other keep a healthier “balance” throughout our careers (and into our retirements) so that we can see ourselves for ALL that we are, not just simply what we do (or did!). Once a nurse, ALWAYS a nurse, true….but we are so much more. And we deserve all the happiness life has to offer when our shift is done.”
I find myself wondering today, why and how it is that I let myself be morphed into a creature who defines herself almost exclusively by what I did for a living? And NOT what I am doing NOW to live? Sometimes I worry it may even be to the extreme extent that I may have lost important parts of myself along the way. I am such a “selfish” person (something I say usually with a tinge of pride) that I am surprised at how easily I seem to have slipped into that woman who often defines herself by her nursing career or what I do for others…. Kind of stuck in a role and a personae that was (is) just a small part of who I truly am. So even though I have totally adjusted to my retirement from nursing, I STILL often “define myself” as a nurse. A care provider. THAT is kind of set in stone, and I can “carry” that.
But I DO want to re-define/ re-adjust other parts of who I am. Especially the part that sometimes feels I am not doing “enough moving forward” with my life. My left brain, who wants me to be musical, creative, volunteer, meditate, exercise (et al).
But what if I “dance like nobody’s watching” and someone gets it on video and it goes viral? What if it turns out I can’t dance worth shit? I can’t read music. I hate exercise.
What if “I can’t”? What if?
So. How is it that I have become so engaged (if not married) to the thought that I actually have the power to control situations? And be so disappointed in myself when my expectations don’t always materialize? My right brain tells me, ” Shit will not ALWAYS turn out the way YOU want it to. Deal with it. It’s perfectly all right. Move forward. ” But still, I often struggle to embrace the wisdom of that part of my brain. (It is too opinionated and fact-based in my opinion. I also suspect it has been colluding with my left brain. I may start an investigation.)
But curiously, even though I have almost adjusted to my Tit-O-Whirl ride, I still find myself “defining” and “re-defining” the ride. It’s that “re-defining” that has me fascinated. And seeing that things can be viewed differently.
I am creeping forward (sometimes at glacial speed) and discovering that the more I let change “in” and see the impermanence in my life, and that sometimes shit happens for no reason (or at least as a result of something I did or didn’t do) the happier I actually am.
Embracing change (allowing for some re-defining”) has brought newfound strength into my life. And 44 years of nursing isn’t what did it. It was having cancer. How fucking weird.
I won’t say it has brought me inner peace because it hasn’t. I am still the chaotic, fearful, interrupting, outspoken control freak. ( I would miss her if she totally went away. Feel free to re-visit the journal entry on why I shall never obtain sainthood.)
But I can see now that when life fails to ruin you with its’ ride’s twists and turns, you realize that changes can’t break you. And THAT makes it possible to listen to my right brain’s wisdom. (At least from time to time!) And tell my left brain to be patient.
And continue to move forward. In retirement AND life.