When The Rain Begins to Fall
The semi-coherent ramblings of a soldier working a small clinic in a small MEDDAC, somewhere in the USA. Written during the furloughs this summer, this is a story of a nurse, soldier and human being in transition--waiting in the still before the storm and learning to enjoy life as it happens.
- 6 Published Sep 19, '13
I reached for the doorknob, willing myself to leave the apartment. My mind was already at work, already stressed under the burden awaiting me behind the desk.
It was furlough Friday—a day off without pay for civilians. When the furloughs were scheduled to happen, there was an understandable uproar. How would the civilians support themselves with a 20% reduction in pay? How would dual-GS families fare in this time of budget cuts and decreased wages?
But now that the once-dreaded furlough is slated to end early, it’s suddenly just as unpopular an idea to cancel it among a good number of our civilians. Many of them, now accustomed to an additional day off per week, are not happy to hear that the furlough will be coming to an early end. They sat around a meeting recently, griping about returning to a 5-day work week. Myself and the other green-suiters, run ragged from overtime and operating an hospital without a massive chunk of its work force, listened with a rising sense of irritation in our throats.
My clinic, closed for the day, will sit empty, waiting for Monday to bring back the sound of feet moving over the smooth, polished tiles. Collateral duties that had been piling up on me over the week weighed down my step, my combat boots feeling heavier than usual. It was a feeling I was not unaccustomed to. The past few months have been a barrage of delays, set backs and extra duties. Perhaps the most frustrating part is that the leadership experience I have been accumulating is not related to nursing in anyway. The days of patients and call bells were an existence I’d have paid to leave just a year ago. If only I’d known last summer where I’d be now.
Weekends crammed with cleaning and desperate attempts to enjoy myself are buffered on each end by five days spent at work, each second like lingering in front of the bull’s-eye. I grow exhausted trying to juggle duties that are completely unrelated to my expertise and my degree while simultaneously trying to keep my clinic and my own head above water. I still wonder what it’d be like if I never left Maryland. I know my friends say it is worse now than it was before back at my old station, but of course, no place in recollection is ever as bad as it truly was in reality, thanks to the edited, privileged view of retrospect. With a couple hundred miles between me and my previous station, it’s easy to see yesterday through rose-colored glasses and wonder what it’d be like if I’d never left. Though it’s unthinkable now, I’m sure that in a few years, I’ll think of this place similarly, with only my writing and my husband to remind me that it was anything other than a mildly irritating existence on occasion.
Despite the problems here, I can’t say in good conscience that this place is all bad. Not by a long shot, and especially not since the summer. I have incredible coworkers with whom I have had the unique pleasure of becoming friends. Their laughter and good humor shields me from the stress and keeps a smile on my face, even on the worst days. I also have incredible patients, people who suffered long and needlessly before finally being sent to me for treatment. In spite of their troubles, their optimism and appreciation for my care makes me look forward to coming to work when I know they’ll be there. As if they know I need the encouragement, they make a point of telling me that they’re not worried, that they know their LT has their backs. And with all of my authority and all of my heart, I do.
My immediate military superior, a quick-humored Major who arrived in the summer, is also a welcome relief, a blessing of a substitution for the individual she replaced. Instead of an authoritative, micromanaging death grip, she maintains her workers with a smile and an empathetic roll of the eye, knowing how this place functions and yet, just like us, surviving within. She’s quick to correct wrong, but she isn’t oppressive. She announces her presence in a meeting by patting my head as she walks by, passing me a smile as she sits down. She smiles, she jokes, she laughs. She’s more than a superior—she’s a comrade in green, one of the few I have met here.
Since mid-summer, I have hidden myself from work-related stresses in wedding planning. My fiance and I, frustrated by the delays that pushed our wedding date years into the future, decided against the odds to move up the wedding. With approval from the command and wedding assistance back at home, the plans march forward, and every day brings me closer to becoming his wife. A future together, unencumbered by prior commitments, fills my daydreams. When I close my eyes and concentrate, I can feel the freedom of sunlight and hear the voices of children echo down from years that seem distant to us now, but they are years that will be upon us before we know it.
And angrily, I still struggle to overcome the block that stands between me and the pen. The loss of innocence has ruined the story-world that I once loved—that I still love—that I struggle to return to. Long gone are the days where I escaped my teenaged turmoil by hiding out in my room, clacking away at the keyboard and writing about a life I only wished I could live. In the blissful ignorance of youth, I’d write long into the night, stories of an existence where injustices were solved, of a world set right when it went wrong, of the dream-land that I once believed life outside of my parents’ house to be.
Now, I fight a mind that is discontentedly stuck in the present, chomping at the bit to be the hopeful, idealistic entity it was before it grew up and left home and saw the ugly, unfair, rough-hewn reality that is life. But every day in this place puts me further and further from that old mindset. The harsh truth of the injustice, the unfairness, and the corrupt way this world turns has tarnished what I used to love. And I can’t escape into my writing, because I know how the world really works—I cannot fool myself into thinking the future perfect because I know far too much about expectations, disappointment and learning to cope when the lights come on and the house is nothing like you expected. It’s taken away the ideals I used to believe were possible—that is, all of them except for one.
And it’s that one desire, that one hope that I hold onto. It’s not a desire for perfection in a person: I know the folly and the disappointment in such a delusion. It’s not the unrealistic expectation of fulfillment in another, but the belief that we are better together; the two of us making a way in life as one, with each other to support and cling to when the seas will not rest. It is knowing that even when the threat of work hangs over my head on Sunday night, I am better able to face it when he is with me.
I stepped outside and locked the door, turning on my heel toward the stairs leading to the parking lot. The wooden breezeway clambered under my boots, but I was hardly aware of the noise.
The wet, heavy smell of rain stung my nose. Out beyond the breezeway roof, thick, gray storm clouds built overhead, quietly, patiently. They darkened the world below them, a wind from above playing in the branches and leaves of the nearby trees, the only thing that dared to move in the still that awaited the storm.
I moved downstairs and into the moist morning air. And as I approached my car, I remembered.
I was a child, hiking in the woods with Dad at home. The wooded back dunes, teeming with beeches, pines and maples, rocked warily back and forth overhead in the warning wind. The sky, black and angry, threatened to unleash rain at any minute. We were close to the car, but Dad paused on the narrow, darkening trail, gazing up at the sky through the waving canopy.
I was afraid, knowing that a storm was imminently upon us. I looked up to tell Dad that we needed to return to the car—and quickly. We didn’t have long before the forest was soaked in a downpour. My hair stood on end as I snuck hurried glances at the black, thick sky.
But he stood quiet, his eyes fixed on the sight above as the gentle rumbling of thunder reached us, traveling over the dunes from the high clouds stacked over the lake. I stared at him, hoping he’d notice my worry. After a moment, my focus shifted to follow his gaze.
The thick, green scent of the pine trees mingled with the rich, swollen aroma of the lingering rain. Branches and leaves swayed above, moving like black lace against the churning charcoal clouds.
And suddenly, I understood for the first time what he was feeling: those fleeting, tenuous moments before the rain, before the storm—when all is still, when the world hushes like a symphony before the crescendo, when your hair stands on end and your skin pinches into anticipatory goose bumps and everything that breathes draws a great breath in, waiting for the first drop to fall—
Because after the rain falls, nothing is the same. Nothing can bring back the excitement of the storm about to break, of the darkening clouds, of the feeling that the world is just a penny on the edge of a table, teetering on the verge of a fall.Last edit by Joe V on Sep 24, '13
I am an Active Duty Army Nurse stationed in the US.
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