The year started out rough. I work in a profession where dealing with pain, grief, and loss is a daily reality, but at the hospital we rang in the new year with some particularly miserable, devastating pains and losses, some of which hit very close to home. In addition, we were dealing with some significant frustrations at home, trying to figure out a way forward with businesses and health and projects and all that. My mom got quite sick and ended up in the hospital for a few days (she's doing much better). So when I went to start a whole day of chores that was supposed to include about a dozen loads of laundry and my washer instantly flooded the floor, I didn't even try to deal with it. I was exhausted and worn out, so I just went and sat on my bed for about 15 minutes and cried. Not about the washer, really (that's more likely to make me annoyed or angry), but more over feeling like everything was broken.
It passed. This last week, I was enjoying a shared moment of pure joy at 3am with some of my favorite coworkers, and I looked around the room and thought about how very fortunate I am. There is never a night I look at the staffing and think, "Ugh." Every single night, I'm happy to be working with whoever is there. Our staff is small--we have about 11 nurses total who work night shift--so even one tense relationship could make work a lot more work, but we all enjoy working together. It isn't uncommon to have weeks where we end up spending more waking hours with each other than with our families. And its hard to imagine any other group of people that would make that OK, but these people are some of my favorite humans. They care about their patients. They care about each other. They are incredibly fun to be around.
And it isn't just our nurses and aides. When one of the losses hit us early in the year, our HR manager showed up with treats and breakfast stuffs early one Saturday morning. She didn't have to do that; the hospital didn't buy those, she did, because she knew we were hurting, and she wanted to something. Cards and donations flowed from the staff to those most deeply affected. It reminded me of a night when I was at the bedside of a critical patient, trying to mix an IV med and get blood infusing as well, and a doctor was right beside me, taking a set of vitals and helping me re-position a miserable patient. I wonder how many hospitalists know the CNAs by name? How many hospitals do you think have an ER nurse who will occasionally grill for the whole staff at 3am out of the back of his truck (or have an ER doc who buys all the meat so that that BBQ can happen)?
I have lived in towns of various sizes, but I came from a small place--Doug tells me it isn't really a town, but a hamlet--and settled in small places, and always prefer them, because community is at the heart of everything I love. Its possible, of course, to form tight-knit communities in more populous places, but doing so in such places does present more challenges. When I was visiting my mom, one of her colleagues showed up with dinner for that night--as various coworkers and friends had every night since she got sick. There were--completely sincere--offers of help in others ways, as well. Everyone knows her. She is the sort of person who would rather not tell anyone she was feeling ill, much less advertise it, but her absence is impossible to miss, so help was never asked for, it simply arrived. The teacher who had showed up during her own lunch break mentioned that she felt like thefts and vandalism and such happened less frequently in small towns, because its very difficult to depersonalize crime: even if you don't know this person directly, she's the aunt of a friend of yours, or the friend of aunt. You are connected in some way to nearly everyone around you. I agreed heartily, and pointed out that it also makes good much easier to do, because we feel that much more responsible to each other.
Be connected to the people around you. Do what you can to create communities of support, respect, love, and service. January began with difficulty and tragedy, and in that I watched a community of people circling the wagons to buoy up members of that community who were hurting; it peaked with watching that same community comfort and attend to an individual who had no community of his own, giving him comfort and peace; and, as it sneaks away like a thief in the night, I have watched a community celebrate together, magnifying joy for current and expected blessings. I needed to see all of that to be reminded that, whatever 2018 may bring, we will weather it just fine and find joy in the journey, because we are surrounded and supported by angels on both sides of the veil.
Bring it on.