Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Follow Your Bliss

I am not the person I pretend to be. This bit of information is going to come as a big surprise to some people who think they know me; even a few who think they know me really well. It’s something that my husband and daughter have only recently discovered and I think even they were more than a little surprised at first. You see, after all these years, I am admitting that I am not a nurse. Never have been, really. And I’m tired of playing that role and I’m oh, so ready to step away from it.

Oh, I went to nursing school, got a degree and took the big test to prove I knew what I was supposed to know. When I answered enough of their questions accurately, the State Board of Nursing for SC saw fit to issue me a license. They didn’t know I wasn’t a nurse, either. So, for twenty-three long years I have pretended to be one of those noble women who care for the sick and the dying. And they are noble, these women who choose this career for the right reasons. I have nothing but respect and admiration for them.

My reasons for choosing nursing as a career, however, were far less than noble. I wasn’t one of those little girls who dreamed of wearing the starched white uniform and the little pointy cap when I grew up. I never had the lofty notion that I wanted to help people in that way. I had never had role models who were nurses. Heck, I don’t think I even knew any nurses. I’ve always wanted to make a difference in the world, but not necessarily in the field of healthcare. No, I chose nursing for a very pragmatic reason.

I had been at a liberal arts college for 3 years. After taking a year off between high school graduation and the start of higher education. Because I had done so much babysitting, everyone thought early childhood education would be the "just the thing" for me and that I would be “simply wonderful” at it. So I took a few classes and, while I enjoyed them, decided that, no, it wasn’t "just the thing" for me. I then briefly thought about History and English majors. For about a week, I entertained the notion of being a sociology major. Well, more like a few days. Certainly not long enough to take any classes in that field. So you see, I had really no idea of what I wanted to be when I grew up.

I was certainly enjoying college, though. I renewed a friendship with a girl from high school and we became best friends. I had recently lost seventy pounds and was enjoying the attention of the opposite sex for the first time in my life. I spent more time in the student center playing Spades and Ping Pong than I did in class. Thank goodness there were more than a few apathetic professors who didn‘t care if you went to class or not. I had friends who would tell me what the day tests were given and I went to just enough classes to get the needed notes. Miraculously, I managed to keep a decent GPR and not get thrown out. I was having a blast!

But I wasn’t even close to graduating and Daddy was running out of patience with his darlin‘ oldest daughter. It became clear that it was time to either fish or cut bait. BestFriend was in the same situation as I was. Her mother was an office manager for a physician and BestFriend did some filing for them a couple of days a week. While there, she talked to some of the nurses who told her that nursing jobs were abundant and the pay was good. “We can always go to nursing school,” she said to me one day. “Why not?” I answered. And that’s how we decided to become nurses.

Almost from the beginning, I knew that I had made a really bad decision. I never looked forward to going to work. That's a bad way to feel about something you will probably have to do for a long time. I was afraid every day that something awful would happen, something that I couldn’t handle and then everybody would know that I was an imposter. I called in sick often. I came up with lame excuses about why I couldn't be there. “I’m sorry I can’t work tonight, but my cat is having emotional problems and I really can’t leave her alone.”

In spite of the fact that my attendance was less than perfect, my job performance was great. I managed to keep jobs. As I grew older and life happened, my attitude changed and I went to work whether I wanted to or not. Not only did I need to make sure I kept a job for financial reasons, I began to see that it was just the right thing to do. However, the fear and the dread never went away.

Eventually, I started working for Hospice. During the first few months there I thought, “Oh, wow! At last, the nursing job for me!” But I came to realize that, actually, it was still nursing and I didn’t want to be there, either. Even so,I stayed the course and even managed to get promoted to supervisor, which only made things worse. After twelve years, I finally felt like I had couldn't do it any more; I had to make some changes. I felt like I was losing my mind. So, in May of 2006, I handed in my resignation and felt peace for the first time in many years. In June, however, knowing that I still needed some income and that this was a sure thing, I went back to work as a Hospice nurse. It was only one day a week, but it was still nursing.

So, here I am twenty-three years later, playing the role I was never born for. I’ve always told myself that I stayed in nursing because of the money. I needed to work, jobs were available and it was something I could do without further education. Good reasons all. Lately, though, I’ve come to realize that I was getting a whole lot more than a paycheck out of it. I was feeding my pride.

There’s a certain cachet in being a nurse. Some people rank nurses right up there with the angels. They put us on very tall, wide pedestals and some of us don’t dare peek over the edges for fear we might fall off. We hear the reverence in our mother’s voice when she says to her friends, “My daughter is a nurse!” Former patients and their family members come up to us in public and tell us how much we mean to them. When we shop while wearing our uniforms, people look at us differently, almost like we're something holy. They assume that we are good and pure and only interested in their well being. It’s very easy to buy into that feeling, to believe you own press, so to speak.

But I’ve started feeling like I’ve sold tiny pieces of my soul in order to stay on that pedestal. I took the path of least resistance and kept doing a job that I hated because I was good at it and I was paid well for it. And people were constantly telling me how wonderful I was. I liked it when my boss got letters from families extolling my virtues and saying how they didn’t know what they would have done without me. I loved it when the other nurses came to me asking for advice. “Let’s ask Bee. She’ll know what to do.” And I puffed up with pride when the boss asked for my help on special projects or assignments.

“Besides," this must be God’s will for my life,“ I told myself as I began to grow spiritually and seek His guidance. As a Hospice nurse, I was meeting some extraordinary people who were such blessings to me. I was invited into their lives at a time when other strangers wouldn’t have been. I heard their stories and I laughed with them and cried with them. I felt like I made a difference. I felt that if God had given me the talents required to minister to these people, then surely I was where I was supposed to be, doing what I was supposed to do. And I would just have to learn to function in spite of the misery.

But what if I was wrong? What if Satan was using these talents against me, filling me with pride and self worth, making me cling to a job that made me miserable. And what if in that misery, I whined and cried so loudly that I couldn’t hear God’s voice telling me what He wanted me to do? And if I couldn’t hear him, what if I thought He had forgotten me? That he didn’t care what I did anymore? I decided I should start praying a little harder and searching for what I was really meant to do.

Joseph Campbell said, “When you follow your bliss … doors will be open to you where you would not have thought there would be doors, where there wouldn’t be a door for anyone else.” I will be 50 years old in just a bit over 2 months. I think it's time, with God’s direction, to seek out my bliss and those open doors. And maybe buy back those tiny pieces of my soul. I’ve looked over the edge of the pedestal and have found, not a sharp drop off as I had feared, but a staircase with sturdy handrails that takes you back to the bottom. And there,standing at the bottom step, are the two people I care most about, ready to catch me when I stumble.

And I am stumbling. Those doors haven’t started opening yet. Although I have my own ideas of what I would like to do with my life, I haven’t heard that still, small voice of God saying, "Yes, this is what I want for you, too." I pray daily for his answer and I know that, in time, it will come. It’s just very hard to wait.

Whatever I end up doing with my life, I will do it with my whole heart and I will praise Him as I do it. I think that’s what God wants most from us, anyway. The people who matter most to me won’t care that I’m not a nurse anymore. To them, I will still be the woman they love and who loves them fiercely in return. My family will remain the best part of my life; my soft place to land. And I’ll be most glad to be off of that pedestal. After all, I’m afraid of heights!


Doodles said...

God does speak in strange ways and at odd times. I too never know like you, am I not listening, is he not speaking. WTH!!!

OK I have an idea, or at least I think it's a great idea. I'm emailing ya baby.


Anonymous said...

how did I miss your blog for this long? just read the latest entry and need to find time to start at the are a wonderful writer and I vote that you become a long distance truck driver and make Indiana the middle of your route! it would allow you plenty of time to listen to your tunes :)
be back later to catch up from the beginning ...


tiedye said...

Oh my dear friend that's how the great majority of us from **the day** fell into our major in college and our jobs, just like you did, which by the way isn't who you are, just what you do. I don't think you're pretending, silly girl. I think you're one of the most authentic people I know. WORK that pedestal, woman! Use what you got, I say; while you're praying, searching, peering over the edge of it.

Y'know, one of my bestest friends says to me all the time that life's what happens while you're making plans (I hate her for that, btw) and I suspect you're doing a great part of what you're "s'posed" to do with your life on a day to day basis already, with those two special people you saw when you peeked over your pedestal.

Anyway you're still on a pedestal to me. Sorry to disappoint. ;- )

Anonymous said...

Persue your dream, Bee. Yeah, maybe for awhile you'll need to supplement your income by cleaning a few houses, but eventually you'll be recognized for your terrific writing skills. Heck, talk to your local newspaper and see if you can do some freelance writing for them. Ya gotta start somewhere!

I agree with Tie, as a friend, you're still on a pedestal.


OggieMamma said...

Punkin, I didn't fall into nursing the way you did, but I did fall into marriage and motherhood. Nope, as my stepmamma reminded me over and over again, I wasn't college material. Nope, marriage and motherhood was what I was cut out for. So, while I love my kids and grandkids and would give my life to protect theirs, this is not my "bliss"; I know that there's something else out there I'm supposed to do. In the meantime, I give of myself daily to my family; often more than I should, simply out of guilt. You're an encouragement that it's not too late for me to seek my own bliss. Thank you.

deb said...

oh, Bee
I'm so moved by this.
I'm so glad that "something" moved me to come here today.
Where and how are you in this now? Have you moved closer to your bliss?

I love ya.

that is all.

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