Friday, October 24, 2014

Anointing

My partner and I were called this morning to a car vs. bike.  It was on a major highway during morning rush hour, and dispatch launched the helicopter while we were enroute.

Thankfully we were able to cancel them; despite the mechanism of injury, our patient was not critically injured.  We arrived before the squads, and there on scene were two men directing traffic around our precarious location in the middle of the road.  One had parked his dump truck to one side of the scene, so that traffic would have no choice but to take a wide swing around the chaos - thereby missing the patient, the car, and us.  On the other side was a man dressed mainly in black and wearing a yellow traffic vest, whom I assumed was an off-duty officer (how many civilians do you know with OSHA traffic vests in their trunks?).  He was forcing traffic coming the other direction off into the shoulder, giving us a wide and safer berth on the opposite side.

I didn't pay them too much attention - I was simply grateful for them.

Not without tears and a little screaming, we got our patient on to the cot.  As we were about to load, the man in black came running over (squads were now managing things) and with great concern asked our patient, "How are you doing?"

She began to cry again.

"I am a Catholic priest, and if you like and it's ok (he looks up at my partner and I), I can give you the Anointing of the Sick."

Trembling, she tearfully nodded her assent.  Surprised, my partner and I nodded ours.

He quickly ran to his car and back, climbing into the ambulance behind us as we finished loading her.  I pointed to our jump seat and said, "Father, you can sit right there beside her."

It's hard to explain what you see in people who do our work.  Sometimes, always unintentionally and often regretfully, we are impossibly irritated by delays and by the elevated emotions of people who haven't gone as numb and indifferent as many of us have - because people are not usually even halfway to the crisis or dire threat that they fear they are.  Although I hear [indirectly] that I am known as the person who can often reach difficult people and who goes deeper than "normal" with patients, I freely admit that I am guilty of the irritation myself.

And so, we had already been delayed - and we knew our patient stood no chance of dying.  We were only in a hurry because of our scene time and how long it would take us to reach a downtown trauma center at 0800 - yet, neither of us said a word as this very young, very eager, but sincerely genuine young priest draped a purple ribbon around his neck, uncapped a small container of ointment, anointed our patient and prayed over her.  We silently went about our business of applying electrodes and priming IV lines as our patient visibly calmed under his words and under his hand.

He next asked a blessing over my partner and I.  I paused to make the sign of the cross with them, and even my partner said, "Thank you, Father."  As he stepped out, I'd like to say that I had to wipe my eyes because of the extremely itchy and watery allergic conjunctivitis I've had going on this week.  But you and I would both know better.

We've all had clergy and chaplains on scenes before - but it's usually when a death has occurred.  I have been party to prayer, Scripture, many, many tears and even wailing in the back of my truck - but today was different.

The feeling I have today is very different from the one I had when I started this journey 13 years ago, and it is the part I will take with me.  It's this poignant sense of privilege that I am allowed to be present during such moments - moments that I well know will influence this person forever.  Seeing it from the outside helps me to know that God was there with us That Day too, even though the outcome was very different.

This is why I came here.  I will "miss" it (I don't know a better word), but I think now that there will be peace for me, when my time here comes to its end.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Next

Night.  Sweet leaves.  Run.  Cry it out.

I often don't write because I don't have a long or very meaningful post.  I think it's ok though to just have a few thoughts.

These days, my only full day off is filled with appointments.  Today it was an hour of physical therapy, 45 minutes at the chiropractor, 2 hours at the acupuncturist, and then 3 hours of training for the Basilica - all of this with breaks of maybe an hour in between, mostly spent battling traffic.

I am exhausted.

I'm trying to take baby steps each week toward the changeable things in my life during what feels like a season of huge reevaluation and transition.  This week I had two friends look over my resume [again], got on Indeed, and actually applied for a job that looked really interesting.  I was finally and extremely pleasantly surprised to see that there were three or four jobs that I actually thought I would be good at and enjoy.  It was huge, not only to take a concrete step in that direction, but to find hope that a different career could also give meaning to my life and my story.

Yesterday, then, I stopped by the county license office and surrendered my ambulance plates.  They hadn't yet expired nor had the tabs; I guess that applying for that job, whether I hear from them or not, freed me in more ways than one.  My car looks so strange now.  I feel anonymous - and I like it.  A lot.
I also registered for a graduate school tour and workshop in Milwaukee yesterday.  I'm not sure yet if I'll drive (my car is awaiting about $800 in repairs) or take the Mega Bus, but I did find a cheap and safe place to stay for a night or two, depending on how the work schedule plays out.

Three miles, running toward whatever comes next.


Saturday, October 4, 2014

What a day

I woke up to the sound of a text message today; the light in the room told me that it was far past the time I was supposed to get up.

The tones went off 30 seconds after I walked into work, precisely one hour late.  Could it be an easy, not-too-sick patient?  Not on a day that started like this - instead, it was severe COPD exacerbation.  Despite her long experience of her disease, was she calm?  You know the answer.  The rest of the trip was a yelling match that WE WEREN'T HELPING HER!

*sigh*

By the time we were transferring her downtown, she was re-oxygenated and calm enough (courtesy of a lot of Benadryl) to apologize for "behaving badly" - which brought an uneasy round of laughter all around.

Exiting through the ER, I saw the profile of my first post-divorce crush - which ended rather embarrassingly six years ago.  I would have said hello, but I also felt no desire for our paths to cross any more closely; it was better to simply watch him leave.  It wasn't awful, but it was a sore perspective on time and how quickly it passes.

There was time, later in the day, to finish another of my new Italian lessons - one thing I'm truly able to enjoy.  After work, despite the wind, cold, and drizzle, I pushed myself to finish my scheduled run.  Two miles felt like too small an accomplishment, but I know I have to start back at the beginning.  I got home and the heat was finally on, which was the best. thing. ever. 

I've deleted everything I've written since the crushing first week of August. I don't know that I've ever felt this lost.  In one of my now-deleted posts, I said I was going to write a new version of "What I Want," one without such hurt and confusion attached to it.  But every time I've come here to write, I only feel defeated.  Transparency and vulnerability haven't served me all that well; I think they've made me look rather pathetic over so much time.  More than anything else, though, it's that I so very sincerely don't know if I want a man in my life anymore.

Instead, I've gone back to the beginning of my blog.  I've reread them all now and deleted more than 50 posts - 50 more than just the recent ones.  What a relief.  I've written of it all - every thought and every heart-yearning.  I did everything I was "supposed" to and plenty of stuff I wasn't.  In addition to the blog editing, I deactivated my Facebook twice; I thought it would be easier than it is to create a new account, connecting only to a few select people. Truthfully, I made this blog private twice, changed it back twice, and will probably change it back again tomorrow.  In doing that, I happened to cancel all my followers, which is kind of sad, but ok in a way as well.

I still feel like all my hopes and plans, for my life in its entirely, got yanked from beneath me in the same week. I'm trying really hard to care about something - anything - and I just don't.  I almost didn't go back to choir, because I feel like a fraud.  If this is the best God has for me after all this time and all these words...I just don't know how to function anymore.  I've put so much prayer and hope into meeting someone with whom to share this life.  I've put so much time, effort, and money toward a new career, and now it would seem to be for nothing.  I've worked so hard to be whole and well in my body, and now pain and appointments comprise my life again.

I need hope.  I am barely treading water, as close to giving up as I've ever been.

I still want to write, clearly.  I'm just not sure about what anymore.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Five dollars and a chance encounter

I spent a good hour in Target this morning, buying groceries for a one week detox diet.  I wouldn't normally ascribe to such a thing, but this is my [maybe misplaced] attempt at positive self-care.

I was standing in the spice aisle, searching hopefully for a smaller container of lemon pepper than the one I'd found, when I heard, "Excuse me, ma'am?"

He was a simply but cleanly dressed (why does this matter?) black (or this?) man.  Humble eyes, soft speech.  I looked at him inquisitively.

"I wonder if you could help me buy some lunch today?"

I've never been approached like this before, not in a Target and out of nowhere.  But it was something about the way he asked.

I asked him, "What did you have in mind?" (I was actually thinking I'd walk to the in-store café with him.)

He looked down and said, "Maybe $5?"

I almost never have cash on me, but Erin and I had a garage sale yesterday, so today I had a tidy sum. Plenty of judgmental things came to mind, such as, "He doesn't look homeless," and, "I wonder what he's really going to spend this on?"

But then I thought, here I am filling a cart with food for one person - healthy and somewhat expensive food at that - and I'm debating lemon pepper, of all things.  I made some extra money yesterday, and I make some extra money singing today.  I work an overtime shift tomorrow.  My mom filled my gas tank last week - and put some money on my Starbucks card -  just to do something nice for me when she knew I was sad.

Let's be real - I have plenty.  Most days it doesn't feel like it, most likely because I grew up without a lot and still make do without a lot, but I do have plenty.  In fact I'm writing this outside the coffee shop where I just paid $4 for the cold-press coffee I'm drinking, and the ability to use the internet.

Perspective.

And...what if he's really hungry?  I have never in my life had to consider asking someone for money to eat, not even when my dad, our only source of income, was unemployed.  Hell, I have been trying to lose weight since I was eleven. years. old.  How hard must it be to approach a stranger like that, no matter what you're asking for, not knowing how they will respond?

I had a five, and I gave it to him. I watched him disappear around the corner into the bread/granola bar aisle.

Here's what I'd like to think:  I was dressed pretty simply myself - just my old, somewhat stained capris (sale at Kohl's), tank top (sale at Target), and sandals.  No make up (as usual), hair in a messy bun (also as usual).  With my cart of vegetables, beans, some chicken, and looking at spices, maybe I looked like I appreciated simple, good food - and I sure do.  Maybe I looked kind and approachable.  Maybe, to the eyes of those who truly go without, I even looked wealthy.  Maybe all that calmness that so many tell me I exude makes me more easily approachable.

Maybe he was just desperate.  I don't know.  But I'd like to think that something about me told him I was safe, kind, and someone he could ask for help.

I've been taking a sort of Facebook vacation lately, a vacation from unneeded reminders, drama, repetition and ridiculousness, and I don't share publicly all that I write.  But before I get on my expensive bike and head to my yoga studio for class (a sure luxury, albeit a very affordable one, this felt important to share.  There is much I want to change, but I want to be a grateful and generous person, and I'm appreciative of a chance encounter that shifted my perspective