One morning this week, I spied a woodpecker perched on a tree outside of the Cancer Center. Such athletic, flighty creatures, it seemed odd that he remained perfectly still, appraising me and the rest of the world around him with his unblinking eye. Only a few feet away, I stared back and sipped my tea and my bones started rattling deep, deep inside:
I don’t want to go to work!!
Its odd, I almost always walk through the doors of the Cancer Center with a smile on my face, eager to see patients and start my day. But its been a struggle lately. I’ve been tired, and working so very hard. The endless stream of emails, prior authorization requests, distraught patients, hospice talks, conflict between staff members, and ever mounting pile of unsigned notes are taking their toll.
Or is it something more internal that caused me to be frozen under cloudy sky, unable to walk through the Cancer Center door? I haven’t been taking care of myself as well as I could, but its not all been miserable either- I have been eating pretty well, and taking my dear dog for runs in the dark November mornings.
And then there are the anniversaries that quietly haunt me. The anniversary of the day I napped next to my mother and noticed she was breathing differently. It was so subtle, it escapes description. But I knew something was different. And she smelled different too- not bad, just ever so slightly different. The dying process started with a whisper on November 13th, 2011.
And then on November 14th, I got the call at 6 in the morning that she was hospitalized with a bowel obstruction, and in a matter of minutes I was barreling down the highway again in my Corolla, headed to Phoenix and biting my nails I could make it there in time. Turns out, we had quite a bit more time: almost a month.
Then there was the cascade of events and phone calls and praying and weeping in lobbies that lead her to be sent home on November 15th with hospice care. It felt so right and so wrong and so unbelievable, a dream and a nightmare.
Life had a singular focus: my mother. There was no room for the stuff that doesn’t matter, like work stresses. There also wasn’t room for a lot of stuff that does matter.
So, this year I’m doing well. I smile a lot, and even have started worried about some of the small stuff again. But this year, on November 14th, I struggled to go to work. I stood outside of the clinic under a grey sky, longing to stay still and sip tea and stare at beautiful birds. I had little to offer to the patients waiting for me, but I gave them what I could. I needed not to give, but to receive.
It wasn’t an easy day for me. But perhaps the universe understood my plight, because when I came home there were two packages waiting for me: dried corn from my mom’s dear friend, and a book from my dear sister.
I don’t always get what I want, but sometimes I get what I need.