Shedding My Skin

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    My muscles - dutiful servants that they are - relax nearly on command, but my brain has to be reined in like an overeager, excitable puppy on a leash. Sometimes, in the quiet, it manufactures beeps and buzzes from nothing, and I hear echoes from hours before. And like a puppy, I have to tell it to "go lay down": to walk away from the work: "At ease...off duty...relax...breathe."

    It starts when I clock out.

    In the locker room, the first of it:

    I take the stethoscope off my neck and put it away, feeling somewhat like the Ancient Mariner removing the albatross from his neck. As I gather my bag, my coat, my keys, I breathe a quiet sigh of relief: I am done. The shift is over, and although I can hear pumps beeping and monitors ringing in the background, it is no longer my job to run after them; now someone else gets a turn at "saving the world."

    Leaving the hospital, I notice that the cold wind which hurried me on the way in somehow feels refreshing on the way out. As I walk to my car, I pause to admire the sunrise and the loud, raucous protests of crows flying through the gray and pink dawn.

    When I reach the car and sit down behind the wheel, the muscles in my back - the ones which are tight from bending to hear a patient's words, from reaching for supplies, from repositioning bodies - finally begin to unwind. These muscles still protest, as if admonishing me to get to bed, but the soreness gives me an odd sense of accomplishment.

    I smile as I drive, and before I know it, I am home.

    Off come the clunky, utilitarian nursing clogs, which have supported me for 12 hours and for countless miles walked. Now I slip into the fuzzy slippers that my husband bought for me, which seem to give my body further permission to relax. They have no pretense of practicality: only comfort.

    I peel off my scrubs and exhale slowly, feeling - for all the world - as if I am shedding my skin and changing into a different "me": the "home" me. The ponytail comes down; the pajamas go on; the contacts are swapped for glasses: all signs that I will rest soon.

    My brain, however, takes longer than my body to spin down. My muscles - dutiful servants that they are - relax nearly on command, but my brain has to be reined in like an overeager, excitable puppy on a leash. Sometimes, in the quiet, it manufactures beeps and buzzes from nothing, and I hear echoes from hours before. And like a puppy, I have to tell it to "go lay down": to walk away from the work:

    "At ease...off duty...relax...breathe."

    Inhale...

    exhale.

    My eyelids get heavy, and I know that in a few days I will do this all over again. My brain knows it, my muscles know it, and my feet know it. But between now and then, I am not responsible for anyone's life except my own, and so I sleep.
    Last edit by Joe V on Jan 24, '17
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    14 Comments

  3. by   leslie :-D
    i felt my whole body melting, from the minute you got in your car and felt your musles relaxing.

    and gawd, how i could relate...
    as i'm sure most of us could, as bedside nurses.

    awesome job, al...
    just awesome.

    leslie
  4. by   Always_Learning
    Thanks very much, Leslie!
  5. by   NewAggieGrad09
    :redpinkhe
  6. by   Julie19

    Love this!
  7. by   annlewis
    Wonderfully written, enjoyed very much and I have felt like you
  8. by   Joe V
    I love it!!

    I immediately became hypnotically entrenched in your words. I needed a bolt of coffee to wake up.

    thank you for sharing
  9. by   Always_Learning
    Thanks very much, everyone!
  10. by   runnergirl86
    Loved it!
  11. by   Ted
    Really nice writing. . . and sharing. . .
  12. by   Baubo516
    This is beautiful! Thank you for sharing it.
  13. by   VivaLasViejas
    How strange that I'd never read this wonderful piece of writing before.......but better late than never! This reminds me of my Med/Surg years when I too worked 12-hour nights and unwound in much the same manner. (I'm glad it is just a memory now, LOL)

    Well done, Always Learning!
  14. by   GitanoRN
    pure poetry in motion of our daily life as nurses....thank you for sharing....aloha~

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